81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Amadeus

October 15th, 2009 · No Comments · 1984, Adaptation, Amadeus, Classical Period, Color, Jasper Rees, Milos Forman, Orion Pictures Corporation, Sir Neville Marriner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

AmadeusWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is my favorite composer of the Classical period (1750-1825).

“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (A Little Night Music) is one of my favorite pieces of music, as are the Horn Concertos 1-4, especially the Dennis Brain/Herbert von Karajan (1954) recording.

In addition, the crown jewel of my possessions is the Philips 180-CD Complete Mozart collection, one of the rarest and most highly regarded compilations of music published in the last 50 years.

Complete Mozart

So I am no stranger to Mozart.

In fact, thanks to the book A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees, I know W.A. Mozart had a bawdy sense of humor and a potty mouth. Mozart would sometimes jot notes to his friend Joseph Leutgeb (1732-1811), an outstanding horn player of the classical era, a friend and musical inspiration for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in the margins of works he’d compose for Leutgeb, notes that would make a longshoreman blush. Rees writes,

A Devil to PlayMozart’s relish of foreign swear words is palpable, though scholars have traditionally been shy of the sheer saltiness of the language. Mozart’s first English biographer, Edward Holmes, whose life of the composer was published in London in 1845, was not alone in declining to translate most of these bestialities. But could see the point of them. “As all these expressions were faithfully given by the copyist, in writing out the part for performance, the ludicrous effect of such a commentary read by the player, on the execution of each passage, as it occurred, may be well conceived.” All horn players split notes. Mozart was trying to split Leutgeb’s sides.

So I am keenly aware of Mozart’s music as well as his fondness for the F-word.

However, I wasn’t aware that Mozart was a cackling, near-imbecile of a man with an American accent as he is portrayed in Amadeus by Tom Hulce.

Whenever Mozart lets loose with a maniacal cackle, I cringe. It truly grates on me.

Still, all Mozartian fruitcakeness aside, this movie is riveting. The movie itself is as much music as is the subject matter on which it is based. Its structure is brilliant. The entire film is told in flashback by an aged and infirm and still-bitter Salieri.

The Plot
Antonio Salieri believes that Mozart’s music is divine. He wishes he was himself as good a musician as Mozart so that he can praise the Lord through composing. But he can’t understand why God favored Mozart, such a vulgar creature, to be his instrument. Salieri’s envy has made him an enemy of God whose greatness was evident in Mozart. He is set to take revenge. (Written by Khaled Salem for Wikipedia.)

The Cast
F. Murray Abraham (1939- )……………………Antonio Salieri
Tom Hulce (1953- )……………………………….Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elizabeth Berridge (1962- )……………………..Constanze Mozart
Roy Dotrice (1949- )………………………………Leopold Mozart
Simon Callow (1949- )……………………………Emanuel Schikaneder
Christine Ebersole (1953- )…………………….Katerina Cavalieri
Jeffrey Jones (1946- )…………………………….Emperor Joseph II
Charles Kay (1930- )……………………………..Count Orsini-Rosenberg
Kenneth McMillan (1932- )……………………..Michael Schlumberg
Kenny Baker (1934- )…………………………….Parody Commendatore
Lisabeth Bartlett (1956- )……………………….Papagena

Directed By:
Milos Forman (1932- )

Writers:
Peter Shaffer (1926- ) (screenplay based on his play)

Amadeus was nominated for an impressive 11 Academy Awards, winning eight: Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Makeup, Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Peter Shaffer)

This is a brilliant movie, superbly written, well acted, well constructed, expertly directed, and filled with some of the most gorgeous music ever written, conducted and supervised by Sir Neville Marriner and Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

The weakest point in the movie occurs just after the second half. There’s a very frenetic opera, lots of sound and noise and fury – and it’s all so terribly hard to follow. I lost interest.

It’s interesting to note that the movie suggests Mozart died of exhaustion at the hands of Salieri, who played a trick on Mozart to get him to expend all his energy and talent on composing an opera. Until this year, that was as good a guess as any, frankly. No one knew what killed Mozart at the age of 35. (Can you believe one man could compose all that music in just 35 years?!?!?!) This past August (2009), however, brought the news that Mozart may have died of strep throat. Click on the article below to read the full report.

What Killed Mozart

What a tragedy! Something we take in stride today, an illness that a bit of antibiotic can knock out in a matter of days, felled one of history’s most gifted and prolific composers.

I’m not sure how historically accurate the character of Mozart was in this film. (I’ll know in a month and a half when I begin my six-month study of Mozart.) But that’s not really important. Mozart’s music is important, profoundly so. And that music is represented here by the finest orchestra in the world.

I’d never seen Amadeus before. But I’ll watch it again, even though it is three hours in length. I was enthralled by this movie and doff my hat to those who created it.

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