Friday, March 15, 1991

Lumbering ‘Giants’ of art
Matt Roush

TNT Sunday-Monday
8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST

Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael are the heroes of this four-hour co-production with Italian TV. Not Donatello, who was before this mini’s time.

And not that A Season of Giants refers to the Ninja Turtles’ latest foes, although this might have been more watchable-if less noble-if it did.

One can empathize (if one is awake) with the creators of this reverent and arid but beautifully filmed docudrama about Michelangelo’s early days, sort of The Agony and the Entropy, a portrait of the artist as a dull young man.

Coaxing drama from the solitary mystery of creation is as daunting a task as Michelangelo’s challenge to “free what’s inside the block” of marble that becomes the great David.

The best and most absorbing moments, coming near the end of Part 1, juxtapose the making of David with Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And even that is prefaced with dippy dialogue like, “What’s Leonardo doing, anyway?” “A portrait, I’ve heard, of Mona Lisa.”

If there’s a great compelling story in this shapeless mass, it remains imprisoned in the granite of art history.

Reasons to watch this generic rehash of artists chafing at patrons, politics, religion and each other? Some fine set pieces, some fun performances-John Glover’s usual mania as the visionary Leonard far outshining Mark Frankel’s dull Michelangelo-and the laughable portrayal of Raphael (Andrea Prodan) as a prissy dilettante with giggling groupies.

In A Season of Giants, you take your jollies where you can get them.