Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

AMADEUS (1984)

Starring- F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Jeffery Jones, Elizabeth Berridge

Based on a Tony Award winning play by Peter Schaffer, this film is as close to perfect as any film can be. Schaffer, who adapted the play for the film, crafted an engrossing, beautiful and terrifying story about the life and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story is told by Mozart's chief rival, cum enemy, Antonio Salieri (Abraham) in flashbacks. The film is set up like a mystery, as the viewer tries to discover whether Salieri killed Mozart or not. While there is a bit of license taken with the historical facts, the narrative is so moving and well done that even the most strict classical music experts will overlook the inconsistencies.

Abraham's Salieri is the focal point of the story as we see the action through his eyes. He serves at court composer to Emperor Joseph II of Austria, but is quickly outshone by the young, and very uncouth Mozart (Hulce). A somewhat friendly competition between the two men turns more vengeful when Salieri, who is a model of virtue, is outdone at every turn by Mozart. While he plots to have Mozart marginalized at court, he is also secretly his biggest fan, which sets up some very amusing and riveting scenes. Perhaps the best scene in the movie illustrates this conflict best when Salieri helps an ailing Mozart write his Requiem, seeing that the voice of God is coming through the vulgar little man.

The acting and cinematography are top notch, all the mark of Director Milos Forman who shot the film in his native Prague. While there are moments of high drama, Forman and Schaffer mix in some very funny moments, namely scenes where Mozart has occasion to do something crass or giggle. It is hard not to laugh when you hear Tom Hulce laugh in this film. The supporting roles add to the richness of the film, namely with Jeffery Jones as the Emperor and Roy Dotrice as Mozart's domineering father. No score was composed for the film, because each piece of Mozart's music was chosen specifically by Schaffer and Forman to reflect the mood they hoped to achieve or the time in Mozart's life. I must say that they did a superb job and that the soundtrack is one of the all time greats in film history.

I can always watch this film if it is on, and I try to watch it at least once a year. If you have a chance, also watch the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD because it is just as compelling as the movie itself. Amadeus is easily in my Top Five films of all time. I'll favor you with that list sometime soon, but until then- watch Amadeus.

Things to watch for-

Simon Callow (who originated the role of Mozart) as Schikaneder
Nipples of Venus
Mozart changes the March of Welcome
The Requiem
The Queen of the Night
The Creature

"Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not."

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