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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Leonardo/The Divine Michelangelo (2002)

Leonardo/The Divine Michelangelo (2002)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Short Film-The Secret Life Of The Mona Lisa
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 236:53 (Case: 295)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alan Yentob
Tim Dunn

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Mark Rylance
Stephen Noonan
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Rob Lane
Simon Whiteside
Charlie Mole

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    If you were to ask virtually anyone to name the greatest artists of all time, most people would include Leonardo Da Vinci & Michelangelo in their list. Just about everyone knows of the Mona Lisa and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite their seemingly ubiquitous presence, I was fascinated by these documentaries as they revealed much more about these men than the art works mentioned.

    This is a 2 disc set containing nearly five hours of documentaries about these two, and even then you feel like you have rushed through their amazing lives. The set is divided into 5 separate programmes which include two episodes about Leonardo, two about Michelangelo and a bonus feature specifically about The Mona Lisa and its mysteries. The last one is presented on the case as a bonus feature so I will cover it in that section. On the disc itself it is included in the Play All function on Disc 1. Both are BBC productions from very recent times, however they were made by different crews, so although similar in style, they have some differences. They both contain a mixture of dramatisations, interviews with academics and attempted modern day recreations of the artists works. One of the fascinating facts for me was that Leonardo & Michelangelo were bitter rivals. Leonardo looked down on Michelangelo, considering him merely a craftsman rather than an artist and Michelangelo made fun of Leonardo's inability to actually finish most of the projects he started. Both attempted at various times to hurt each other's career and they competed for some major commissions.

    Leonardo was made in 2002 and is hosted by Alan Yentob. It follows Leonardo's life from his birth in 1452 through to his death in France in 1519 and covers his personal life including his homosexuality, beliefs, art, architecture, inventions and his numerous contradictions and idiosyncrasies. Amazingly he was famous as a party entertainment organiser and many of his designs were used for those purposes. In the dramatisations, Leonardo (Mark Rylance) is shown as a middle aged man rather than the old bearded picture we are used to. Through the two hours, I was constantly fascinated by the things which he worked out or understood, such as how the eye worked or that people died due to hardening of the arteries. Many of the medical or anatomical discoveries that he made in the fifteenth century were not used practically until 'rediscovered' 500 years later. One of his interesting contradictions was that he held deep pacifist beliefs but in order to earn money tried to sell ideas for war machines from tanks to submarines to bombs. He struggled financially for most of his life which is another interesting comparison to Michelangelo. One of his big issues was that he would take on a major commission and then lose interest, which damaged his reputation. His focus was on the gaining of knowledge rather than doing. Having said that, some of the things he did complete have gone down in history as some of the most famous works ever including The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Some of his inventions which are built for the show to prove if they would have worked include his diving suit, military tank, glider, and robot. Most of these were remarkably successful. A fascinating portrait of one of the greatest thinkers, artists, engineers and scientists of all time.

    The Divine Michelangelo was made this year, 2004 and is similar in style, however does not have a visible host but rather an off-screen narrator (Susannah York). The quality remains very high. Again this two part show follows Michelangelo's life from his birth in 1475 through to his death in 1564, certainly a long life for the times in which he lived. This documentary shows all sides of Michelangelo from great painter, sculptor & architect to slob, liar, embezzler and antiquity faker. It proves that a lot of what was written in his official biography was either embellished or straight out lies. The title refers to the fact that he considered himself a divine genius rather than a mere mortal. He initially made a name for himself as a sculptor and was sponsored by the Medici family. Unlike Leonardo he became a very wealthy man, but tended to hide his wealth. The recreations of some of his work such as a part of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel by modern artists show the incredible personal and physical cost which he paid for his art. The comparisons between him and Leonardo are fascinating.

    An excellent set of documentaries for anyone interested in the history of art, medicine, architecture or science. Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good but not spectacular.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is most likely the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was very good. The sharpness was affected by some grain, with some footage (possibly stock footage) showing more than others.

    The colour was generally good and the blacks were solid.

    There were some artefacts including some shimmering, especially on reproduced drawings, and some minor aliasing such as on the frame at 28:57 in Episode 1 of Leonardo and also on various car grilles, striped clothing and buildings.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read but somewhat smaller than most.

    The layer changes either occur between episodes or are very well hidden.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is fine but is restricted by its television source.

    This DVD contains one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of Leonardo by Rob Lane & Simon Whiteside is wonderful and adds significantly to the feel and drama of the show. The score by Charlie Mole for The Divine Michelangelo is also quite good.

    The surround speakers added some atmosphere when the soundtrack was played with Dolby ProLogic II.

     The subwoofer was not noticeably used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included stills, and the ability to select scenes and subtitles. Some of the excellent score was also included.

The Secret Life of the Mona Lisa (59:11)

    This is an extra full length documentary made by the same team who made Leonardo. It focuses on the mystery and adulation for Leonardo's most famous painting, The Mona Lisa. It includes a modern attempt at recreating the painting showing the stages Leonardo would have gone through over the more than 10 years in which he worked on the painting, carrying it wherever he went. It discusses the painting's history after the death of Leonardo including how it came to belong to the French, how it was stolen and recovered in the 1910s and the political wrangling over it once it was recovered. The documentary also claims to lay to rest the mystery of who the woman in the painting is. Another fascinating documentary.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This set is available in Region 2 with a different cover but the same contents. It has not been released in Region 1.


    A wonderful set of documentaries from the BBC covering the lives, art and careers of Leonardo Da Vinci & Michelangelo. Highly Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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