Rating: R for nudity and crudity
Run Time: 3 hour, 5 minutes
As glorious and overblown as it was when it took the home a truckload of Oscars in 1985 (including Best Picture), director Milos’ Foreman’s film version of London and Broadway’s flamboyant stage classic still overwhelms and entertains with the best of them.
At over three hours, it had better. Sir Peter Shaffer’s play was inspired by persistent 19th century rumors that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had been poisoned by his arch-rival, court composer Antonio Salieri. “Amadeus” is told in flashback, with the aging Salieri confessing a lifetime of sin to a hapless and helpless young priest who is alternately fascinated and repelled.
Climbing out of poverty-stricken obscurity to the opulence of the grand court, Salieri has a dream: to get close to his God. Through music, he believes he can connect to the Almighty in a manner heretofore impossible. Salieri’s dream is shattered the first time he hears the glorious strains of Mozart’s ingenious composition. Suffering with the profound knowledge of his own mediocrity when compared to the God-given genius of history’s greatest musical talent, Salieri is driven mad with jealousy. With malicious single-mindedness, Salieri devotes his life to the methodic destruction of the “obscene child” who is God’s instrument; a lustful, unprincipled hedonist who wants nothing more than to drink, philander, and compose.
Peppered with fine performances by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (Salieri), Tom Hulce (Mozart) and Jeffrey Jones (Emperor Joseph II), “Amadeus” owes its real success to its extensive musical score, performed by Sir Neville Marriner and his merry band of musical men (the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra). Mozart’s timeless arrangements, performed onstage a la opera (too much), at exclusive recitals (too little), and shown on the written page, are a glorious testament to a prolific talent the likes of which the musical landscape has never again witnessed.
Universal themes of black and white – man and God, genius and mediocrity, good and evil – saturate the storyline with intrigue. American accents lend the production a cut-rate quality that belies the opulent costumes and set design. Hulce’s giggling, ebullient Mozart is part comedy and part tragedy – the life of the party lost in the muck of sullied reputation. Digitally re-mastered and restored picture and sound plus 20 additional minutes of dramatic footage add up to a must-see-on-the-big-screen movie experience.