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The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 7 October 1965 (USA)
The biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II.

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(based on the novel: "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by), (screen story and screenplay)
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Contessina de'Medici
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Alberto Lupo ...
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Paris De Grassis
John Stacy ...
Fausto Tozzi ...
Foreman
Maxine Audley ...
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Storyline

Pope Julius is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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From the age of magnificence comes a new magnificence in motion pictures See more »


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Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

7 October 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy  »

Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)
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(Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

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2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Irving Stone was the recipient of several honorary awards from the Italian federal government and regional Italian authorities for cultural and literary achievements. See more »

Goofs

Giovanni de' Medici (Pope Leo X) is portrayed in this movie as an older man in this film, however he was only in his 30s when the Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted and only 37 when elected Pope. See more »

Quotes

Pope Julius II: You see, my son... how well we understand each other... when you don't shout?
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Connections

Edited from Prologue: The Artist Who Did Not Want to Paint (1965) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Harrison steals the show in an overblown movie with terrific sets
26 October 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Coming with the American rush to "love art" in the 1950s and 60s (including the famous visit of the real Mona Lisa to America by boat), "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a touchstone of how to make a hero of an artist and make him or her human, too. That's the key, you know--the artist has to be ribald and earthy but also transcendent, almost beyond his knowing.

That's the flawed paradigm at work here. We learn nothing about how Michelangelo's art was made--how it was painted. Nor how it was devised or inspired--the image of God in the clouds doesn't cut it for me. And we actually learn nothing about the real man--Charlton Heston's interpretation is fair enough, I suppose, but it's really just the necessary cliché of a talented (handsome) man tossed around by forced bigger than him.

What is supposed to drive the movie, and in a way saves it as a piece of entertainment, is the presence of the penny-pinching Pope, played by Rex Harrison (of "My Fair Lady" and "Julius Caesar" fame). His haranguing about the ceiling is blithe and fun. And Heston's complaining as he creates his masterpiece (with plaster dripping on his face--actually pudding in the shoot) is a foil for the Pope more than anything. Oddly, the Pope is a stronger character than the artist, and if history is at all right, we get the sense it was the other way around.

What is terrific about the movie is the set--a replica of the Sistine Chapel in a nearby movie studio. They gave them freedom to shoot it in all different phases of the painting, with and without scaffolding, night and day, and it's pretty marvelous to see it unfold in a way not so far from what must have been the truth.

Another bit of truth snuck in during these last days of the Hays Code: when someone comes looking for Michelangelo in the whore house, the prostitute goes hysterical laughing because, of course, he would never be found there. The artist was gay, and the world knew it then and knows it now, and the filmmakers get a clever wink in.

Another highlight is the incredible marble quarry in Carrara, a real place with what really is the best (seamless, pure, easily sculpted) marble in the world. Lucky it was nearby ancient and Renaissance Rome, both.

Don't avoid this movie at all, but don't expect anything truly penetrating. It's aggrandizing, it's formulaic, it's well filmed, and Harrison is in great form. But director Carol Reed ("The Third Man") chickened out a bit in a chance to push the boundaries a little harder.


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