Cinema: Epic Eyeful

The Agony and the Ecstasy opens with a prologue celebrating the magnificence of Michelangelo Buonarroti's most famous sculptures: the David, Moses, the Pieta, Bacchus, the Medici tomb figures. It makes a splendid beginning. And even for the shrewdest caterers to popular taste, an act like Michelangelo's is hard to follow. What does follow in this solemn, princely spectacle —drawn by Director Carol Reed and Scenarist Philip Dunne from Irving Stone's low-to-middlebrow biography—shows every evidence of great effort, but the achievements are spotty.

On film, Agony limits itself to those tumultuous few years when...

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