22 February 2009

Great Art: Getting It Paid For, and Finished! -- "The Agony and the Ecstasy"

I recently spoke to several of my friends, one a film buff and the others folks who would love the story told here, and none of them had seen this film, much less read the book. Given what I knew about who I was talkin' to, I was quite surprised.

The Agony and the Ecstasy is based on one segment of Irving Stone's biographical novel of the same name. This superb film tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II over the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

I have to admit, seeing Rex Harrison in a role where he quite effectively, as Pope Julius to Heston's Michelangelo, puts Charlton Heston in his place is, well, delicious. Heston was playing so many God-like roles in those days, it's good to see someone with the authority to put such a gigantic screen presence in his place.

But more importantly, the history of the now renovated Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest art accomplishments of the Italian Renaissance, is fundamentally important. It gives the viewer substantial insight into the ever difficult relationship between a great artist and a patron he (or she) must rely on to continue working.

In short, see this film. It is an essential for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of how great art gets made.


owen said...

That's pretty cool..

That movie looks like something I might like..

Paco Malo said...

Owen, definitely check it out.

You have personally faced the "keeping your day job" vs. (in your case) letting your slide guitar slide to keep up on the truck insurance and rent. This movie, from a very different time and place, nails the same, timeless problem artists, all true artist, face.

And I tell you man, getting to see Heston doing his "The Almighty" routine and having the plenty powerful Rex Harrison tell him to kneel and shut up -- it's a trip.

The friendship / rivalry is a kind of modern buddy movie, but from 400 years ago, before Nick Nolte ever let Eddie Murphy out of jail for "48 Hours."

Anonymous said...

Good post, Paco! Keep 'em coming. I guess this is yet another film I will have to get under my belt.


Paco Malo said...


Thanks for your comment.

As one of my mentors taught me, "One cannot be held responsible for having seen every film, read every book, and heard every track of recorded music."

All in Good Time.



whiteray said...

I, too, have yet to see this, although I remember when it was released. Oh, well, that's what the DVD player is for. Thanks for the reminder. (I saw the chapel before it was restored, but it was still breathtaking. I just lay on the floor and stared while people stepped around me.)

Paco Malo said...

When I saw the Chapel in 79, unrestored, it was totally lost on me, but I knew I had some homework to do. When I worked at Barnes and Noble, in a bricks and mortar store in St. Petersburg, FL, I hid an art book in the back with photos of the restored fresco panels -- with the necessary subtext.

I would read it on my lunch half-hours and savor the panels, but could never afford to buy the book.

Some Higher Power working through Michelangelo's hands and eyes and brain. It's a mind blower if you go down this road all the way.

Thanks for your comment WhiteRay.

"Silver Queen" said...

I loved reading the responses.

It is an important movie and I am glad you have done your bit to spread the word.