Saturday, January 22, 2011

1984: Amadeus

All Salieri wants is to compose wonderful music to glorify God.  His talent is enough to earn him a position as court composer to the emperor of Austria, but it is nothing compared to that of a vulgar, goofy, conceited little man named Mozart.  Salieri is furious with God for bestowing an amazing gift on such a creature.  He is torn between his love for Mozart's work and his hatred for the man himself.  Eventually, Salieri devises a plot to murder the great composer, whose funeral would be Salieri's comeback.

I had never seen this movie before, and I was certainly missing out.  It is absolutely phenomenal.  The soundtrack alone is mindblowing, and the story presents a fascinating character study.  The structure is brilliant.  The film begins with Salieri as an old man who tries to kill himself after confessing to the murder of Mozart.  The whole story unfolds through flashbacks as Salieri "confesses" to a priest.  But I think the most incredible thing about the story is how relateable it is to audiences in any time period.  There have always been majorly talented people who are jerks in real life that others both admire and loathe simultaneously.  We sympathize with Salieri because we agree: the music is amazing; the man is contemptible.  This fascinating story is made thoroughly believable by both the lead actors: F. Murray Abraham (who plays Salieri) and Tom Hulce (Mozart).  Each is so convincing in his role, and gives such a tremendous performance, that it is difficult for me as a viewer to root for one over the other.  They were both nominated for Best Actor, and Abraham won, which is rather ironic since he played the self-proclaimed patron saint of mediocrities.  Personally, I think they both deserved to share the Oscar, for, as amazing as the score and story are, this movie would not be nearly as fantastic without the proper actors for these complex roles.

If I had to say something negative about this film, it would be the length.  I apologize for constantly griping about this, but I don't see why movies have to be two and a half hours long to win Best Picture.  Of course, the problem with shortening this film is that pretty much everything in it is essential to give the full effect.  Like Mozart says when his music is accused of having "too many notes," everything is there because it needs to be.  I don't think anything should be cut out, but I'd find this movie (and many others on this list) a lot easier to sit through if it wasn't quite so long.

Next Best Picture: Out of Africa (which is a minute longer than Amadeus)

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