The subject of the biopic is Michelangelo at 40, in his relationship with sin, family, power, hell, all that. The artist is hairy and epileptic, angular and lousy, bony and dusty (the sculpture and the paths that lead to Rome, it digs and it makes a lot of dust), tortured everywhere except the cock (his homosexuality is only ‘hardly suggested). He has a pointed brown beard, as in the portrait of Jacopino Del Conte, but is it because the director, Andrei Konchalovsky, is Russian, because he was once on the set ofAndrei Rublev, because he filmed in his youth characters of Turgenev and Chekhov, or simply because he frames with a knife, in light diving, the chiseled and falsely toothless mouth of the Italian actor Alberto Testone, clear eyes rolling their marbles and jawbones under pressure? He looks like a Russian pilgrim or a mad Tsar, like Ivan the Terrible. Michka the Florentine, then. Or, if you prefer, Alberto Test (ostér) one.
The action takes place roughly between 1512 and 1520: between the reluctant presentation to Pope Julius II of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the moment when, like Buridan’s donkey, the character and opportunist genius, forced by political circumstances , comes and goes between two blocks of marble: that of the successor of Julius II, a Medici, who pays him to create the facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, and that of the parents of the late Julius II, the Della Rovere, enemies of the Medici, who pay him to complete the tomb of the dead.
Michelangelo, as we know, will do neither. His embarrassed letters to each other show how much he must have praised (1). In the film, he finally says, gesturing like an albatross on the deck: “Money always rubs shoulders with infamy.” And art too. To try to get out of it, after having come to a stop in front of a girl’s head, a boy’s foot, an imaginary tentacle, he asks for advice from the ghost of old Dante, who appears in a red costume, as in a painting. by Gustave Moreau, before melting into the night of a cave and the smoke bombs.
In a poem, Michelangelo summed up the atmosphere, at once violent, corrupt and conducive to art, in which he worked: “In so much serfdom, and so much disgust / full of false thoughts, at the great peril / of my soul, here sculpting divine things.” The threatening rivalry between the Italian duchies, the ingratitude of his own family which lives on its hooks, the desire above all to do a work that goes beyond all this misery and the possible, all this leads our man to Carrara, where is the best stone; and here is, finally, the real hero of the film: an enormous block of marble, such as the tailors have never transported, and which everyone calls the monster. Konchalovsky makes several fixed and slick shots, all in vanishing lines, of the men stopped around this thing that it is a question of moving, of rolling down the slope, of transporting, and suddenly, we understand: this a block so white, so enormous, so disturbing, so inaccessible, this block which will ultimately lead to nothing is Moby Dick, the marble sperm whale.
Michka turns around, beard pointed, like Ahab with his harpoon. The beast crushes a man, then another, causes the murder of the blacksmith who had made the hooks at a discount, ends up stranded facing the sea, the artist not obtaining the right to embark it. The filmmaker is inspired by several letters from Michelangelo, for example that of September 13-14, 1518: “As for the marbles, the column I extracted is down on the canal, fifty fathoms from the road, safe. Getting her down was a more difficult operation than I thought. A man was injured taking her down; another broke his neck and died on the spot; As for me, I almost died there. “
In Rome, we also meet a televised Raphael double, an elephant from India, an obese and diabetic pope ripe for the Covid, shady priests, shaggy people. In all things, the film follows Michelangelo’s life fairly closely, but it does so like a medieval television series or comic book. roots, one of those albums of images where neither a pustule, nor a mucus, nor a rat, nor a jerk, nor a grin, nor a cue, nor a severed head is missing. Our children have seen others.
(1) Michelangelo. Selected match, presentation, translation and notes by Adelin Charles Fiorato, ed. Klincksieck, 552 pp., € 25 (ebook: € 16.99).
Michelangelo d’Andreï Konchalovsky with Alberto Testone, Jakob Diehl, Francesco Gaudiello… 2 h 09.