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THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, TOLD INFLASHBACK MODE BY ANTONIO SALIERI - NOW CONFINED TO AN INSANE ASYLUM.
The satirical sensibilities of writer Peter Shaffer and director Milos Forman (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) were ideally matched in this Oscar-winning movie adaptation of Shaffer's hit play about the rivalry between two composers in the court of Austrian Emperor Joseph II--official royal composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), and the younger but superior prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). The conceit is absolutely delicious: Salieri secretly loathes Mozart's crude and bratty personality, but is astounded by the beauty of his music. That's the heart of Salieri's torment--although he's in a unique position to recognize and cultivate both Mozart's talent and career, he's also consumed with envy and insecurity in the face of such genius. That such magnificent music should come from such a vulgar little creature strikes Salieri as one of God's cruelest jokes, and it drives him insane. Amadeus creates peculiar and delightful contrasts between the impeccably re-created details of its lavish period setting and the jarring (but humorously refreshing and unstuffy) modern tone of its dialogue and performances--all of which serve to remind us that these were people before they became enshrined in historical and artistic legend. Jeffrey Jones, best-known as Ferris Bueller's principal, is particularly wonderful as the bumbling emperor (with the voice of a modern midlevel businessman). The film's eight Oscars include statuettes for Best Director Forman, Best Actor Abraham (Hulce was also nominated), Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. --Jim Emerson
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No clue, maybe these details tell a more faithful story of the legendary tales... that doesn't mean they constitute a better story.
On the bright side, you come away still astonished at the greatness of Mozart and the score/soundtrack is gorgeous all the way through. The opening moments of the movie are still nearly perfect as Salieri begins to tell the stories and you see flashbacks and vignettes from their younger days. That part will forever be my favorite part of this movie.
This one is a very slow three hours in which many of the added scenes do not pay their own way. (Stanzi’s topless scene in particular seems pointless and demeaning.) In this context, Tom Hulce’s tittering Americanisms began to wear on me in a way they had not in the original print. And while I admired much of the other acting — especially Abraham’s corrupt industry and Jones’ happy cluelessness — I did not form even the most fleeting of emotional attachments to the characters. It’s hard to do so in what is effectively a “decline and fall” format.
Much of the music is lovely, of course, and I could easily listen to this movie with my eyes closed with little attendant loss in satisfaction. That lovely line about Mozart taking dictation from God seems especially apt. But this extended experience also reminded me that the composer’s unbridled genius had its showoffy side and I have come over the years to admire equally the more disciplined work of Beethoven and Bach.
In the end, the changes didn’t ruin the movie for me and I’m sure I’ll come back to Amadeus again in its original vision. But it’s a useful reminder that expanded editions sometimes fix things that weren’t broken to begin with.
The score is simply one of the best ever produced, engineered, recorded, for a feature film. On the DVD alone (I am sure it is even better on Bluray) the sonic space and surround are stupendous, enveloping and warm as needed, vibrant and dangerous as the movie progresses on. Naturally the whole score is Mozart, but it is one of the best conducted and arranged Mozarts I have ever heard and I have about a dozen Mozart CDs in my collection by all manner of European and American ensembles. Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields fill this movie with a heart-pounding soundtrack which carries you from opening title to end credits like a white water rafting trip on the Colorado. Incidentally, the soundtrack album/CD for the movie is arguably the best selling classical music album of all time (in terms of units sold).
The play upon which Amadeus is based on, and movie script itself, is written by Peter Shaffer who also left his heavy mark upon us with Equus a decade before Amadeus (and then again for the film script in '77). In both cases, Shaffer received an Academy Award and rightfully so, especially with Amadeus where he shows a lot of muscle and dexterity in his manipulation of two rival (from the viewpoint of Salieri) composers who are diametrically opposites of one another.
If you have been hiding under a rock for decades and have not watched AMADEUS, if you have cought a few minutes of it on a channel and didn't stay because you missed the beginning, do yourself a favor and spend some time with this movie, one of the preeminent works of art in the film industry. It is beautiful, it is funny, it is sad, it is mysterious, it is thunderous, it is heartbreaking, it is deceitful, and it is addictive. Mozart's Requiem during the run up to the end is perhaps one of the greatest cinematic and musical fusions ever brought to the screen (the opening sequence of TITUS comes close). For that alone, the film is worth every penny you pay for it.
Thank you DVW, hope I did not insult you with the description of "longish", my music reviews are often twice as long as your review was, I like detailed analysis.
Most recent customer reviews
Someone made a huge mistake on this DVD bc the special features to add language does not work.