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Overall Rating
4.35

Awesome68.32%
Worth A Look: 16.83%
Average: 4.95%
Pretty Bad: 0.99%
Total Crap: 8.91%

1 review, 95 user ratings


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Amadeus
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by David Cornelius

"Rock me... oh, never mind."
5 stars

There’s a scene late in “Amadeus” in which Mozart, drained from illness and overwork, is comforted by his wife. The composer is unshaven, hair in a wreck, his mind not entirely up to speed. It’s here, in this moment, that it becomes clear that “Amadeus” is setting up Mozart as rock star. Burned out on too much fame, too much genius, and too much pressure, this tale of a 18th century composer could very well be the tale of Jim Morrison, Ray Charles, Kurt Cobain, Elvis.

Or maybe even Michael Jackson. Both men were pressured at an extremely young age by overbearing fathers to showcase their talents; both men, then, grew up with a stunted world view, trapped in a state of semi-permanent immaturity. There are differences, of course (Mozart was never this dangerously insane), but the notions are the same: celebrity grown from genius mixed with adulthood underdeveloped thanks to fame.

Tom Hulce’s interpretation of the role is a marvel. Our introduction to the character sets up everything we need to know. Here is a genius beyond words - he can even speak backwards, fluently, without any preparation - yet all he wants is to chase some tail, make fart jokes, and generally be a manchild. His laugh, most of all, tells us everything, a loony, high-pitched cackle that could only come from a person lacking any sense of self-restraint.

Director Milos Forman previously helmed “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Hair,” and he later went on to make “The People Vs. Larry Flynt” and the Andy Kaufman biopic “Man On the Moon.” And the theme continues here, in “Amadeus.” Forman’s movies deal with punks, rebels, outsiders. He positions Mozart as a punk rocker (dig that pink wig!) unwilling to be bound by the limitations of convention. It’s a bold move to paint an icon this way (indeed, most of the film is fairly dirty and grimy, creating more realism than romanticized biography), and it works splendidly. Forman once again shows us the story of an outlaw.

And yet “Amadeus” isn’t really Mozart’s story. The film begins and ends with Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), sent to an insane asylum following a suicide attempt. He has been haunted for years, you see, by the memory of Mozart; Salieri claims to have murdered him.

It’s through Salieri’s eyes that we meet the title character, and it’s through Salieri’s eyes that we follow his story. We flash back to a time when Salieri was serving as court composer to a dopey emperor (Jeffrey Jones); just as the emperor is a man with a “tin ear,” so Salieri is a composer with enough talent to land the job but not enough to make it memorable. Salieri, the musician, is pedestrian, competent, mediocre.

But he knows music far better than he can create it, which leads to his dreadful realization that Mozart, for all his foolish behavior, is nothing less than a genius. What grows is both admiration and jealousy. Salieri remembers an old oath he made to God, asking to be granted talent, for which he will gladly live a chaste life. The composer lived up to his end of the bargain, but then sensed in God a cruelness: the “voice of God” was given instead to this nasty little pervert.

Watching Abraham at work here is like watching a master musician, to make a lame analogy. The actor brings out the spite that burns to the very core of the character, the hateful spittings that lead a man to obsession. As both old Salieri and young, Abraham brings remarkable depths to his role. (Between Abraham, Hulce, Jones, and Elizabeth Berridge, playing Mozart’s wife, “Amadeus” is on the short list of the best casted, best acted films ever made.)

Despite all the fine acting, despite all the magnificent drama from writer Peter Shaffer (who adapted his own stage play), the main ingredient in “Amadeus” is the music. Mozart’s overwhelming music is the first and last things we hear in this film, and throughout, it washes over the viewer. Film editors are often congratulated for their work joining images; here, the team of Michael Chandler, Nena Danevic, and Michael Magill are to also be praised for their expert handling of where and how to place Mozart’s compositions.

There’s a gimmick used here that’s simply heavenly. Whenever we see Salieri reading sheet music, we begin to hear the music play on the soundtrack, as if we are inside the character’s head, hearing him decipher the written notes. It is this editing choice that puts us squarely in the mind of an artist.

The film’s most stirring moment comes when acting and music meet head on. Mozart lay bedridden, consumed by illness after having fainted during one performance. Salieri, who has been driving him mad by secretly commissioning a new symphony despite his rival’s already dangerous workload, has helped him home. And now the two begin work on Mozart’s masterpiece, the “Requiem.” Mozart dictates the notes, Salieri follows along, putting them to paper. The villain claims to have darker motives (he hopes to publish the work as his own), and yet one can’t help but think he’s actually helping out entirely out of artistic needs - who could possibly refuse such a powerful work from being completed? (The scene helps lighten our view of Salieri, if not for his intentions, then at least for the fact that despite his “mediocrity” as a musician, he’s still able to hold his own with his better.)

In 2002, Warner Bros. released a director’s cut of the film, reinserting twenty minutes of cut footage back into the movie. These are fine scenes, to be sure, but to be honest, both versions work, with neither the theatrical or the director’s cut being definitely better or worse. (The longer version adds a pinch of depth, but it’s nothing that you’ll feel is missing from the 1984 edition.) This makes it one of those rare director’s cuts that doesn’t diminish the original film, nor does it embarrass it.

Whichever version you choose, you’re in for a treat. “Amadeus” is a masterful combination of acting and storytelling, of sight and sound, of cinema and soundtrack. It is an awesome moviemaking feat, an inspired production that’s impressed viewers for two decades now, and will most certainly impress them for many more to come.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1458&reviewer=392
originally posted: 03/02/05 07:37:00
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User Comments

1/02/14 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-LOOKING, WELL MADE, POWERFUL BIOPIC, WITH A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
12/12/11 Nick H. Carefree genius & all consuming envy. Marvelous! 5 stars
9/05/11 Citry Peough Anyone who says this movie is crap is saying more about himself than about the film 5 stars
2/24/11 art MILOS FORMAN"S BEST BIOGRAPHY FILM.> 4 stars
5/15/10 Alex Vaz ... you will never hear music the same way again. 5 stars
5/08/10 wailenbabe Ive loved this movie since I first set eyes on it... 5 stars
8/10/08 bjarki utter waste of almost 3 hours 1 stars
5/23/08 Billy Bob worst movie ive ever seen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
4/14/08 R.W. Welch Near flawless adaption of brilliantly written Broadway play. 5 stars
2/18/08 Pamela White great historic fiction 4 stars
2/10/08 A. G. D A beautiful movie...a pleasure to watch and hear 5 stars
9/02/07 Ingrid Schneider Crappiest Movie Ever Made! Crap, Crap and Recrap! 1 stars
3/06/07 Prasoon dhungana its a good movie but sometimes its bit boring 3 stars
1/29/07 Molly Best. Movie. Ever. even if its not accurate. 5 stars
12/07/06 DS Burk didnt think I was going to like it but did 4 stars
9/14/06 MP Bartley A big, silly romp that just works wonderfully. 5 stars
7/13/06 David Cohen Made me feel like cr@p, and I still liked it 5 stars
5/07/06 chienne Apart from t'Yank accents, J Jones looked like he stepped out of an oil painting. 5 stars
3/17/06 HL Brilliant...Perfect, One Fantastic Film. 5 stars
1/27/06 zach lainhart gay 1 stars
12/27/05 Elizabeth Bland This film is coarse and vulgar, and should never have been allowed past the censors. 1 stars
10/21/05 Michael Awesome, Sad, Evil 2 stars
9/22/05 dipayan Awesome 5 stars
6/15/05 Ionicera the director's cut is great 5 stars
6/05/05 daveyt an 11 year gap until 2nd viewing was too long! 5 stars
5/23/05 vanessa one of my favorite movies ever 5 stars
3/31/05 hannaho One of the best films to come out of the 80's 4 stars
3/15/05 brody not accurate but good 5 stars
3/05/05 Carolyn Rathburn IT WAS AN INTRIGUING FILM, I ENJOYED IT 4 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung fantastic score and salieri is making a revival 5 stars
3/02/05 Jack Bourbon We all hate "the laugh," but everything else is great 5 stars
3/02/05 Maggie Dressler Great Movie - makes classic music history understandable 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Just the music alone makes this awesome. 5 stars
11/18/04 chris abrahams is hypnotic 4 stars
10/25/04 UMER abraham's performance is among the top 10 performances of all time 5 stars
10/13/04 Nora Mayers The film introduced me to the music of Mozart. For that reason, I'll always love it. 5 stars
10/04/04 sbpat21 excellent 5 stars
9/27/04 kim very classy, witty and well written 5 stars
6/23/04 SF. Spectacular. awesome writing, direction,acting and production value. 5 stars
6/08/04 o v.good but some crap acting 4 stars
5/28/04 Sean Scanlan Best biography 5 stars
3/26/04 The Talking Elbow Shush whiners, this is one hell of a movie. 5 stars
3/25/04 john simply phenomenal - great cast and -of course ! - wonderful music 5 stars
3/16/04 Chris J. Not enough about Mozart, too much about Abraham's character. Overrated. 4 stars
2/21/04 DunkanWilber Great Movie with Beautiful Music 5 stars
12/22/03 Snickerdoodle Definately on my top 10, one of the only 3 hour movies I can sit straight through. 5 stars
11/23/03 smartmusician Everything Great except: they twisted Mozart's death, is death is unknown. 4 stars
8/04/03 madelyn Awful 1 stars
5/21/03 Ryan F. Brilliant funny, wrenching classic. On my Top Ten List 5 stars
5/09/03 mr. Pink Beautiful. Hulce and Abraham should have gotten better careers after their brilliant work. 5 stars
3/06/03 Berserker Over-rated mediocrity 3 stars
2/21/03 Hi there Excellent Best Picture Winner of 1984. 5 stars
2/14/03 Anne Truwor It is terribly beautiful 5 stars
12/17/02 rotten s. milk Winner of 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture. 5 stars
12/11/02 Gaiia brilliantly beautiful 5 stars
4/24/02 Justin "Amadeus" won 8 Academy Awards Including Best Picture. A Classic! 5 stars
4/06/02 Jessi Awesome 5 stars
4/03/02 Marjorie Morrison This movie was quite interesting, especially Mozart's annoying laugh. 4 stars
4/03/02 mina a freakin' awsome movie. 5 stars
3/26/02 Romeo Hernandez one of my top ten best films of all time! 5 stars
3/07/02 Jeff Ellis My rating pretty much says it all. 1 stars
2/26/02 Joey Corley Not bad, worth seeing 4 stars
2/03/02 Edward Such genius, truely the zenith in moviemaking, the best film yet made, I'm sure 5 stars
1/18/02 Brian This was a great movie, if you didn't like this movie, you obviously didn't understand it 5 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden Long, With A Meaningless Ending. 3 stars
11/23/01 shana this movie was terrible, absolute crap 1 stars
11/15/01 Martin Cohen One of a kind, the scene where Salieri first meets Mozart is unforgettable 5 stars
11/14/01 J. Hastings Haven't seen a better movie yet... 5 stars
11/02/01 dfgjfgj fgjfdgjfgjdfgj 5 stars
5/25/01 I love movies too long, with disappointing ending 3 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L excellent choreography, scenery, and MUSIC! Ouch its genius... 5 stars
1/04/01 jerrica it wasn't too bad 3 stars
12/10/00 rogerrogers one of the best ever 5 stars
12/02/00 WALTER FLAKUS I THINK SOMEONE OTHER THAN HULCE WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER CHOICE 4 stars
11/30/00 Andrew I liked it better then I thought I would 4 stars
10/28/00 Prajit Chatterjee Amazing Movie!! Made with great depth and emotion, though inacurate to a certain extent. 5 stars
8/24/00 Michael Middleton Among the greatest movies ever made. Thematically rich and breathtakingly scored. 5 stars
6/01/00 TERRIE SMITH Not accurate but who cares. Good entertainment. 4 stars
5/13/00 keesie a great film 5 stars
3/11/00 Eleanor It's was a great inspiring and moving movie, one of the best! 5 stars
3/08/00 jerry springer The finest and most touching movie I've ever seen.Anyone who dislikes it is full of shit!!! 5 stars
2/16/00 raychil super 5 stars
1/18/00 Lorna Gregory A rather enchanting film. Tom Hulce is an excelent actor with an exceptional talent. 5 stars
1/12/00 John Ramos Spectacular 5 stars
12/11/99 melanie awesome movie, one of my favorites, but not very accurate. 5 stars
10/28/99 Tom De Mulder My favourite movie of all time 5 stars
10/20/99 Tony Daquano Classic 5 stars
8/12/99 Merry One of the best period pices ever 5 stars
8/11/99 Japtalian A much deserved Oscar to F. Murray. A great film, decidedly so. 5 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
2/22/99 Tom Rice What the hell was this crap???? 1 stars
1/29/99 Scott Stipe Best period piece EVER 5 stars
1/24/99 donkey_dew Geezers Weezers. Do they get much better than this? Insanely Awesome!! 5 stars
1/05/99 demon_shredder Mozart rocks 5 stars
12/14/98 Jules If Mozart was alive today he'd be dead of an overdose. Fun film. Not sure how true to life. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Jul-1984 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Feb-1985 (PG)




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