Michelangelo: Self-portrait

Robert Snyder’s insufferably boring documentary about the life and career of Michelangelowith a commentary drawn by Michael Sonnabend from the artist’s diaries, letters, and poems, and various biographies, and anonymously intoned by someone who sounds a bit like Burgess Meredith. It follows the same basic scheme as Paul Cox’s Vincent, but the filmmaking skill is so meager that it makes Cox’s flawed film seem like a masterpiece in comparison. Predicated on the principle that nothing is worth looking atmuch less contemplating or thinking aboutlonger than about five seconds, the film dutifully runs through its material like a mechanized checklist, keeping the camera in almost perpetual motion (through pans and zooms) as it sweeps across paintings, sculptures, buildings, manuscripts, or (most often) fragments of the above, as if it were a package tour compiled for bored American vacationers. (The accompanying music by Monteverdi is also sliced into sound bites.) I don’t know Michelangelo’s writings, but it’s hard to believe that they’re as banal and as simpleminded as they’re made to sound here in collaged translation. The usual excuse for this sort of torture is that it’s educational and/or uplifting, but the notions of both art and education that are on display here are so alienated and alienating that the net effect is closer to antiart and antieducation. In short, a perfect film to send a child to for punishment, to make sure that she or he will never want to come within miles of Michelangelo again. (JR)

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