Michelangelo: Self-Portait (1989)

Written by Michael Sonnabend
Directed by Robert Snyder


Released by Home Vision
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Fans of the artist should own.

Michelangelo has been represented more than once in cinema and on television, but here we have a unique approach: Snyder has taken the words of Michelangelo himself, adapted by scribe Sonnabend, and used them to have the artist narrate his own story. Certainly there are spots where facts and other information must be given, beyond Michelangelo's own words, but these exist to enhance the story being told. What you get coming out the other side is an engaging docu that's literally what it purposts to be: as close to a true self-portait of the artist as we could possibly snag.

This docu is also unique in that Snyder has been here before: his previous docu covering the life and work of Michelangelo is on here as well, The Titan. The story of how that first docu came together is almost as fascinating as the film itself: the fact that it was pieced together primarily from footage shot by Nazi Germany for propaganda films and was repurposed by Snyder towards a more noble end--fascinating stuff. Another amazing bit is the access that Snyder was able to wangle in order to be able to get such amazing footage of the artist's work. I mean, you are right there at Michelangelo's Pieta, getting some serious coverage of the entire piece. Just amazing.

Apart from the feature and backup docu, you also get an interview with the director where he tells much of the background story on both features, and also what it's like revisiting the subject matter. There's a full filmography of the director's work, as well as excerpts from other docus he's directed: a bit of a terrible tease, since every single one of them looks worthy of viewing. Perhaps Home Vision can produce a nice boxed set and take care of that need with one fell swoop.

Any fan of the artist's work will want to pick this up, if nothing else for the attention to detail and the closeness to the works you can achieve, no doubt closer than you could get in real life. Art teachers of all levels will want this for their collection, because of its unique approach to bringing you the words of the artist in explanation of his life and masterpieces. Regardless, everyone will want to at least rent it once--the quality is unmatched.

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