El Greco (1541 - 1614) was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in Crete. He began his career as a painter of icons for Byzantine churches. Moving to Italy and then to Spain, his work fused ... See full summary »
A great deal of time before and after the years covered in this life of El Greco that a certain amount of context is lost. The film El Greco is about his art, but it's also about his life and his greatest love.
Mel Ferrer no doubt in the hopes that the film would lift him into the ranks of the Hollywood elite produced and starred in this film with a European cast. There are no other Americans in the film, but a few familiar faces from European productions. Most prominent will be Adolfo Celi who is the one who first brings El Greco to Spain on a commission to paint his daughter's portrait, the daughter played by Rosanna Schiaffino.
And Schiaffino becomes the great love of his life. But Spain was also home to that most repressive of religious institutions the Inquisition. Their penalties were most severe for deviancy from the Roman Catholic faith and in fact the Church in Rome was virtually a Spanish protectorate in the 16th century. A lot of people used the Inquisition to settle some personal scores. Institutions to preserve orthodoxy in any society usually sooner or later become instruments of repression and/or vengeance. And El Greco made a lot of enemies.
Fernando Rey plays Philip II of Spain, the most powerful man in Europe and the Americas as he colonized most of it while he was King. Such people as Raymond Massey and Montagu Love played him before, a great deal more fanatical than Rey is. But Rey does come across as a man with the burdens of the world on him and for the most part they really were. Ferrer is aiming for his royal patronage.
El Greco was born in Crete which was part of the Venetian city/state/republic and that brought him to Italy and then to Spain specifically Toledo. He lived a good deal longer than the action in this film. Ferrer gives a restrained and dignified performance, but the man who really could have done this role justice would have been Tyrone Power and he hadn't been available for 8 years.
El Greco the film is beautiful and dignified, but terribly slow moving. It never did for Mel Ferrer what he intended.
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