Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chuck paints a ceiling

Tonight I watched THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (1965) with Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison.  I've had this movie on my 'to watch list' on Netflix for about three months and didn't even know if I had the interest to finish it once I started.  I vaguely remember seeing this movie many years ago, and only remembered a continuous argument between a pope and a painter.  I didn't recall anything else about it, but wanted to revisit it in my adulthood, as someone with more of an attention span and interest for such arguments.

I was really fascinated at how great this movie really is.  To me, this is Charlton Heston's greatest piece of acting.  I realize that Charlton work is shadowed by his role as Moses in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and as Judah Ben Hur in BEN HUR, but dog-gone it, his Michelangelo is his masterpiece.  I've always enjoyed movies with Chuck, from Moses to the Omega Man, but I always thought of his acting as a little stiff ~ a little lofty.  I'll admit it's been my misperception all along, because the man had a face that could've been chiseled and smoothed by Michelangelo himself.  Maybe I placed him in my mind as more the big movie star rather than that of a great actor.   Now that I've seen The Agony and the Ecstasy as an adult, I have completely changed my view of him.  This man was a great actor!

Heston wasn't stiff, or lofty, no striding in this film.  Chuck's Michelangelo seemed more like a blue collar worker who was passionate about his craft, demanded pay for his work, and didn't mind giving his employer a piece of his mind if he felt the quality of his work was compromised...even if his employer was The Pope.

Kudos also to Rex Harrison who played Pope Julius II.  Harrison has played many memorable characters throughout his career, but this Pope peering up to Michelangelo peering down from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were incredible film moments.  Iron sharpens iron, and these two great actors delivered brilliant sparks flashing against each other throughout this film. They were just wonderful together.

Now that I've revisited and enjoyed the ecstasy of The Agony and the Ecstasy, I am going to have to revisit another one of Irving Stone's book to movie LUST FOR LIFE that starred Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh.  I remember it being a great movie.  I must watch it again after having not seen it in over thirty years.  I'll get back to you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

the robe revisited

I noticed Netflix made the 1953 movie THE ROBE available.  I remember television networks showing this movie every year around Easter.  It's been a long time since I'd watched it and I had almost forgotten about it.

THE ROBE is a fictional story that tells the story of the Roman soldier who won Jesus' robe in game of dice.  It's a good story for what it is and was worth revisiting.  It's is a dramatic film that was one of many Biblical epic productions of that time.  I felt it a little over-dramatic, much like most of the Biblical epic films of it's day, but the movie still has it's merits.

Most Biblical based films were that way until Johnny Cash's GOSPEL ROAD (1973) and the television mini-series JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977).  These movies seemed to bring the Son of God down to Earth more so than the huge productions that preceded them.

Interesting note about THE ROBE is that it was the first film shot in CinemaScope and actually had a sequel, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954). Throughout my life I had never seen the widescreen-letterbox version, rather the standard 1.33 ratio that was altered for television.  The visuals in the movie are quite stunning and worth watching again just so you can get big picture originally intended.  I also just learned that Jeff Chandler was originally considered to play Demetrius before Victor Mature.  Chandler would've made a great Demetrius, but Mature played his melodramatic part well.