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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 <email@example.com>
Purportedly a biography of Michelangelo, it turned out to be that of Pope Julius II
The movie is better than the book in the sense that it is kinder to Michelangelo. Remember that in the book there were hints of the artist's latent homosexuality to explain his lack of interest in women. In the movie, this is attributed to his dedication to his artistry. His greatest rival in the arts, Leonardo da Vinci also does not figure in the movie, but to no great loss as his presence would have needlessly complicated the plot.
The movie portrays Pope Julius II, "the warrior Pope" in good light. He took up the sword to finally bring an end to French interference in the papacy (cf. the "Babylonian Captivity" of the papacy in Avignon). And of course, despite the notorious division of Italy into city states, he struggled to free that country from foreign domination while keeping the papal states intact.
Rome is correctly shown as a city in decay during the Middle Ages. It took Julius II to finally build a Basilica worthy to be the focus of world Christianity. His patronage of the arts and of grand architecture enabled Rome to justly keep the title "The Eternal City."
In the end, Julius II may be judged as a competent monarch and in his way, a faithful priest who initiated many reforms to curb corruption among the clergy.
Heston and Harrison, both great actors, brought out the best in one another as they gamely sparred in this immortal film - one as the driven and haunted artist, the other as the saturnine Pope fighting to preserve the temporal power of the papacy against all odds.
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