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Amadeus

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A-/A+/B+

Directed by: Milos Forman
Written by: Peter Shaffer
Based on the play by: Peter Shaffer
Produced by: Saul Zaentz
Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones, Charles Kay, Simon Callow
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

Without music, would life have as much meaning? Whether it's The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra or Beethoven, music plays an important part in inspiring people. When writing, I like to listen to music, specifically classical pieces. One of the best classical composers was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose life is brought to the screen in Milos Forman's Amadeus. Well, not all of his life as most of what is potrayed in the film never actually happened in real life. That is not a flaw of the film, however, as Peter Shaffer manages to still create a fascinating story that keeps us gripped throughout the three hour running time. Forman recently released the Director's Cut on DVD, adding about twenty minutes of new footage and it surprisingly enough, improves the theatrical version that graced cinema screens and won eight Academy Awards in 1984. This is the version of Amadeus more worthy of being in your DVD collection.

Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), a court composer in Vienna, is excited about the arrival of his musical idol since childhood, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). However, much to Salieri's shock, Mozart turns out to be a vulgar, immature creature who just happens to be blessed with the power to produce beautiful music. Salieri soon watches his world change as he realises that his own music isn't so great when compared to the impressive operas that Mozart churns out. After watching Mozart moke him at a party, Salieri decides that he must do away with him somehow and take his revenge on God, who he has since declared his enemy for giving the beautiful gift of music to a vulgar, little man with an annoying laugh.

Milos Forman and Petter Shaffer created a masterpiece with Amadeus, a startling potrayel of two different men thrust together. F Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce both received very well deserved Oscar nominations for their performances and they both give their characters the right tone. Mozart is a fun individual who surprises people with his impressive music despite his personality (and obnoxious laugh), but is soon going to deeper into debt and alcoholism. Hulce potrays Mozart's nuances so perfectly and Abraham is just as terrific. One of the main reasons that Amadeus is such a terrific film is the fact that when things do not go Salieri's way, we are just as upset as he is, because we feel for his pain. Mozart provides Amadeus with comic relief, while Salieri provides it with torturing pain. That's just how good the performances, script and direction allow these characters work, especially in their final scenes together.

The supporting players are also integral to the plot as well, though. Jeffrey Jones is almost comical as an emporer with an attention span of two hours and requests Mozart to cut a few notes from his operas. Catherine Berridge is the actor in the film given the most opportunity to shine thanks to the Director's Cut. Forman looks deeper into the character of Mozart's wife, Constanze and she is given a much more important role than in the theatrical version and there is even bigger reason as to why she is shocked to see Salieri in Mozart's room at the time of his death. And of course, I would be crazy of me not to mention the glorious sets, costumes and makeup effects that are so important in bringing 1700's Vienna to life. This is one of the best films to come out of American cinema and a treat for even those who aren't too fond of classical music. In fact, those who are fans will be very happy with Warner's remastered soundtrack of the film which booms through the speakers and you feel as if you yourself is in one of the opera palaces with Salieri and Mozart.

Despite there being two discs (to obviously allow the three hour film to have a terrific transfer), Warner has intelligently opted for quality over quantity. The fist disc features text supplements on the film's awards, cast and crew. There is also a very informative audio commentary from Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer. Despite some silent spots, it still provides to be a highly informative chat on the making of the film, the real Mozart and Salieri and explanation on why Forman decided to insert the deleted scenes back in. It's very worth listening to if you're a fan of the film. Moving onto Disc Two, there is the theatrical trailer and an amazing one-hour documentary on the making of the film. Unlike other making-of pieces that appear on other DVDs, this look at the film is not just happy talk. They talk about the problems related to shooting the film in Prague as well as how the actors got the parts (most interesting is the reason as to why Berridge was cast). In fact, Milos Forman admits that he didn't even have much interest in seeing the original play when a friend told him about it.

Thankfully, he did see it and loved it, otherwise who knows what Amadeus would have been like? This is a terrific motion picture with fantastic performances and a terrific screenplay, direction and technical areas. Warner Brothers creates yet another fantastic two-disc set with a beautiful transfer and informatice extras. Those who own the previous DVD must upgrade from that crummy flipper disc to this terrific set. Amadeus is a must own.

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