Most helpful positive review
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
"It's only painted plaster, Your Holiness."
on 2 March 2006
This fictionalized account of the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling focuses on the battle of wills between the artist, Michelangelo (Charlton Heston), and his patron, Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). As the story opens, Michelangelo, already an established sculptor, is commissioned by the warrior Pope to decorate his ceiling. Michelangelo doesn't want to do it, preferring to concentrate on the 40 statues intended for Julius' tomb. But the Pope wins that battle, the first of many, for the two men are equally matched in their stubbornness and pride. Renaissance Rome is finely recreated with great sets and costumes, not to mention the step-by-step painting of the ceiling.
Both Michelangelo and Julius are portrayed as stiff-necked, driven men who use reverse-psychology on each other to get what they want. The dialogue is literate, but each line is delivered like a grand speech. We learn a great deal about Julius as a man and not as much about Michelangelo. These are great performances by Heston and Harrison; they play men with monumental egos and ambitions but infuse them with human faults and foibles. A wonderful documentary over-view of Michelangelo's work that precedes the film would have been better at the end. I enjoyed the film almost as much as Irving Stone's novel, and that's saying a lot.