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1984

Tom Hulce as Mozart

F. Murray Abraham as Salieri

Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart

Christine Ebersole as Madame Cavalieri

Directed by Milos Forman

Based on the play by Peter Shaffer

Synopsis: Signori Salieri is housed in a mental hospital, circa late 1700’s.  He’s now telling his version of the events leading up to Wolfgang Mozart’s death, which was apparently plotted by Salieri himself, but as an act of revenge against God for choosing a vulgar little man to be his instrument instead of him.  The majority of the film is told through vibrant and beautiful flashbacks of key points in Mozart’s career, but centered around Salieri’s time with him and from his point of view.

One of the most prolific Oscar ®-winning films in history (8 wins, 11 nominations), and based on a play (which is quite the read, let me tell you), this incredible film is definitely a cult classic.  It’s definitely gained popularity over time, and since it’s a period film, it doesn’t lose any of its magic.

Best bits?

  • The cast.  Every single actor is perfect.  Even Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph (Marie Antoinette’s brother, if you remember your history; he imparts some background about her situation in France in one scene, which gives us some detail about the time period) was fabulous.  Abraham is perfect as the vengeful, plotting Salieri (was he REALLY like that, though?  Fun to speculate); Simon Callow is key as Mozart’s friend who tries to persuade him to make music for the people and not the aristocracy (and ironically played the title role in the stage version 5 years earlier); Roy Dotrice is spot-on as Mozart’s over-bearing and highly-judgmental father.  But the real star is, of course, Tom Hulce.  He had to have had so much fun with this role!  He combines perfectly the childlike innocence of a man who lives for his music with the madness of a man driven to perform at any cost.
  • The laugh.  The high-pitched giggle.  Oh my GOODNESS.  It’s worth watching just to see him laughing.
  • The sets and costumes.  Won Oscars ®, and deservedly so.  Incredible.  So ornate!

My favorite scenes?  It’s hard to choose, because they are all amazing, even when Salieri’s father chokes to death during a childhood flashback near the start of the film.  But there are a few:

  • Mozart’s introduction to Emperor Joseph.  Watching him try to convince a room full of snobs that his idea for his first commissioned opera is the best and only choice is so funny!  The end of the scene is clearly the key, though; Mozart memorized a tribute piece, written by Salieri, after hearing it played (badly, by the Emperor himself) only once.  He then played it back to the room, and everyone stood amazed.  Then he modified it.  Over and over.  And laughed.  Amazing.
  • The playing of Don Giovanni after the death of Mozart’s father.  So emotional and moving.  Very dark.
  • Mozart and Salieri collaborating on the Confutatis of the requiem just before Mozart’s death.  The translation of the music in Mozart’s head to the pen Salieri uses to write the music down is truly amazing.  We watched this in my high school band class to emphasize how the different individual parts and instruments meld together to create a beautiful piece of music.  I’ve seen nothing else like it.
  • Any scene with the elderly Salieri is top-notch.  He’s so clear in his conviction, and presents it in such a matter-of-fact way, that you just can’t help but believe that he did, in fact, kill Mozart.

Weepy Meter:  3/10  It’s only the music that gets me here.  I bought the soundtrack and the DVD on the same day, and still listen to it in the car on road trips.  Such excellent selections of Mozart’s work.  I didn’t cry when Mozart died, because it was kind of creepy, but I think I laughed so hard at HIS laugh that a few tears of mirth found their way to my cheeks.

Man Meter:       1/10  Probably not gonna happen, unless he enjoys watching the best films in the history of the industry.  This won 8 Oscars ®, so clearly it’s good.  There’s no real violence, but one hell of a lot of partying, so maybe that will get him to sit through all 2 hours and 40 minutes of it.

Overall Rating:   9/10  One of the best movies I’ve ever seen.  It never gets old.  Amadeus doesn’t really hold up the ideals of the premise behind this blog, but I don’t care.  If you want only action movies, write your own blog.  (Just kidding.  I think I’m tired and I’m being very sarcastic and frank.  Stupid migraines.)

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