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Amadeus (Director’s Cut) (1984)

by on 2010/03/14

Amadeus is the title given to a film that might otherwise be called The Gradual Assassination of the Wunderkind Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by the Jealous, Less-Talented but Oddly Sympathetic Antonio Salieri.

I saw the original version of Amadeus, released theatrically in 1984.  In the 26 years since, I had never seen it again, though I remembered it fondly.  I recall that outing being a special event for our family and friends, for my mother’s love of the music, and for its universal acclaim.  It enjoyed both popular and critical success, not to mention a landslide Oscar year.  Above all, I remember it being the story of a funny clown named Mozart, inasmuch as Fawlty Towers was the story of a funny waiter named Manuel, and The A-Team was the story of a funny pilot named Murdock.

What a difference those 26 years make.  One generation later, and I feel most acutely the tragedy of Salieri, who shows so much promise early in his life, only to be upstaged by an upstart.  He feels a comparatively barren life stretch ahead of him, and soon plots the downfall of the ruffian most responsible.  Where most people evolve or make peace with their limits, Salieri crosses a line early on, ostensibly encouraging Mozart, while simultaneously pushing him toward self-destruction.  An Iago of the most elegant order, he is a master sower of dragon teeth.

As far as Amadeus is concerned, I can think of nothing worth criticizing.  The film’s epic length hardly deterred me, given how interesting and entertaining I found every aspect of the tale.  Surprises abound:  revelatory performances from F. Murray Abraham and Jeffrey Jones; sets and costumes too opulent to overlook; even the “aging” makeup was the best I can recall seeing.  It all adds up to create a world so convincing you can lay aside the artifice, and revel in the art.

With luck, I’ll see Amadeus again, long before identifying with its dotty old Emperor.

* * * * *

Rated R for coarse language, nudity, substance abuse, and violence

180 minutes

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