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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Amadeus
Amadeus
Other // PG
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chuck Arrington | posted September 29, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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AMADEUS

Synopsis:

In 1984 Milos Forman committed to film easily, the best docu-drama on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Based partly in fact and partly in the fictionalized excitement of the movies, Amadeus tells a story of genius, jealousy, madness, triumph and death. The greatest musician/composer of all time began his life in music at a very early age. Pushed by an overbearing father, he performed before the crowned heads of Europe, the Pope and every dignitary the times offered. All the while a young musician by the name of Salieri watched Mozart's success praying only that he too might share in the tremendous gift manifested by young Mozart. Fast-forward to Vienna, 1781 the city of music and musicians. Time and talent have worked in his favor and the once musically envious boy is now known as Composer Salieri for the court of Emperor Joseph II. Surrounded by a bevy of snooty musicians, his (Salieri's) confidence is intact and his achievements are more than notable. That is, until young master Mozart arrives to play for the Archbishop of Salisburg. The music played is in a word…perfection. The notes are perfect; the order is perfect, the very page upon which the music has been inscribed is perfect. However, Herr Mozart is shall we say less than perfect. Still quite young and reveling in youth, his musical genius is offset only by his zest for fun and the less than finer things in life. After all, he has been performing since he was a child and is only now beginning to explore the joys of youthful irresponsibility. Disgusted at what he quips a "vulgar display", Salieri seeks to be rid of the young composer and leaves the hall for the residence of the Emperor. Once there he (Salieri) is quite alarmed to learn that, the esteemed musical giants he has surrounded himself with are all abuzz about the genius manifested by young Mozart and it is suggested that Mozart not only meet the Emperor but also be commissioned to write an opera for him as well. In honor of his appearance before the Emperor, Salieri composes a March of Welcome for the young genius only to have the Emperor pitifully "single finger" play it as Mozart enters. Once completed Mozart greets the Emperor and is given the music sheet for the "March" as a token of Salieri's respect. Mozart refuses the sheet music claiming to have already logged the song in its entirety in his head. To prove it, he plays the march from beginning to end, effortlessly. Then in what is surely the worst showing of bad form, Mozart critiques the march and improves upon it, all in the presence of the Emperor, Salieri and the assembled musical leaders of the time. The level of embarrasment for Salieri is more than he can bear and from that moment on, Salieri embarks upon a crusade to keep Mozart's works from being heard by anyone, and even more sinister in intention he plans and prepares the events that will lead to the young Maestro's death. Awe gave way to Respect, which crumbled into revulsion, which quickly became an all-consuming hatred. "The man, the music, the madness, the murder, the motion picture…Amadeus…everything you've heard is true.

Audio:

The most stunning thing about the film other than the story itself is the masterful tapestry of music woven to assist in the telling of the story. I HAVE NEVER BEFORE HEARD SUCH WONDERFUL MUSIC!! Sir Neville Mariner and the St. Martin in the Fields orchestra created music that words cannot describe. As much a character as Salieri and Mozart, these classical pieces are incredible in every detail. The 5.1 adds another level to the audio excitement by enveloping you in what I can only describe as the music of the gods! The sub is put to perfect use as well as the fronts and rears. Perfectly balanced, the audio presentation is simply marvelous. Additionally included is a music-only track (Isolated score) that is equally thrilling. After all, it is the score in its entirety and you gotta love that!

Video:

Before the advent of DVD-18 "flipper" discs were used to a great degree. Additionally, Amadeus is one of the first films placed on DVD. As such, Amadeus is a flipper and requires flipping from side "A" to side "B" to complete the film. The video presentation itself is exactly as I remembered it from the theater. The colors were well saturated and the blacks were true. There was no bleeding of any kind and the fleshtones were dead-on. There were a couple of instances where I noticed only a hint of shimmering but other than that, the images were beautifully presented in an almost totally artifact free widescreen transfer. The colors for the period were not the brightest or the most brilliant but they are very well presented on the disc. In watching the videotape (shiver) the disc is an incredible improvement over the previous VHS installment. On all accounts, the disc is the best transfer I have seen of this film. I have not seen the LD so I cannot compare the two.

Extras:

The extras on the disc are Spartan at best. Primarily, there is a trailer for the film and the usual production notes that are a staple of DVD. There is certainly a boatload of extras concerning the music of the film that could have been produced and included however; none of them were put to film. Given the time in which the film was produced (1984) "making of" documentaries were fairly scarce. I'm sure if they were to revisit the film today with a new transfer and a new DVD, they could fill it to the gills with extras however; the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. So, as it is with its minimal extras, I'm glad to have it on DVD.

Overall:

What can I say about this film? This is the very first movie I ever saw on the "big screen". As such, it has colored my expectations of films from that time forward. The music is heavenly and wonderfully produced and performed. The acting is solid and wholly entertaining. The story holds you in rapt attention from beginning to end. Much like Immortal Beloved, Amadeus tells the story of the makers of the world's greatest music! And like the music, the films have to be experienced in total to fully appreciate the all-encompassing scope of the stories. Had it not been for the flipping and the lack of extras, I would have placed this in the "Collector's" category. However, as it is missing those primary elements I am content to highly recommend this feature to all lovers of classical music as well as those who simply enjoy the masterful telling of a great story. -Highly recommended!

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