A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 63 – Amadeus

Amadeus – May 2nd, 2010

I picked the wrong night to watch this. For one, I have a splitting headache and I’ve had it for hours. Nothing’s touched it and nothing will except a good hot shower. Except it’s also hot and muggy and even if it wasn’t, we’ve got this water problem in the Boston area at the moment. Main pipe burst, dumped a disgusting amount of water into the Charles, we’re on not-that-sanitary backup water that you’re not supposed to swallow unless it’s been boiled. So. Headache and an almost three hour long movie full of one of the most obnoxious laughs in the history of filmmaking. Brilliant.

The sad part is that I think if I’d watched this on another night, I’d have loved it. I enjoyed it tonight, but kept having to sit back and close my eyes and ignore it, and that just sucks. It’s not a movie that you should sit back and ignore. It’s funny and sad and angry and beautiful and it shouldn’t be something you turn away from. But I kept having to. I’ll have to watch it again some time when my head isn’t throbbing.

The reason we picked this for tonight was because we went to a concert at Symphony Hall today. Okay, so it was Bach, not Mozart, but we thought we’d continue the classical music theme. Also, I know Andy loves this movie and so I wanted to see it. It, like so many others, is one I’ve meant to see for ages. This one didn’t get overhyped to me, I just never seemed to get around to it. And it really is excellent. You could close your eyes (and not ignore it) and enjoy it for the music alone, but then you’d miss half the performance of it all. And the performances are spectacular.

It’s historical fiction, of course. The story of Mozart’s life as told by a fictionalized Antonio Salieri, and therefore horribly biased and viewed through whatever the opposite of rose tinted glasses would be. Green, I suppose, for envy. Mozart as seen by Salieri in this movie is a horrible little man given a gift he doesn’t deserve. I spent much of the beginning of the movie suppressing the urge to slap Mozart silly, which, having seen the whole thing now, I think was the point. So goal achieved there! It’s a story of the seven deadly sins. Gluttony, lust, and pride would all be assigned to Mozart by Salieri, but his wife could take avarice and sloth. And then Salieri himself is plagued by envy and wrath. Envious of Mozart’s talent, and certain that Mozart’s vices make him a terrible vessel for said talent, Salieri stages a psychological war on Mozart, intent on using his vices and flaws to break him utterly. And, as far as he’s concerned, he succeeds.

The true genius of the movie is in making you feel for Salieri every step of the way, until you reach the end and feel his guilt as well. It’s in the writing, and the music, and the performances of everyone on screen and behind the screen as well, because the operatic pieces were acted on screen by one cast and sung by another. It’s beautiful, as I said, but also painful. I definitely have to watch it again. Just on a day when I can listen and watch undisturbed.

May 2, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Amadeus

May 2, 2010

Amadeus

I adore this movie. I’ve seen it more times than I can tell, and it touches me deeply every time. It’s a thing about music I think. Maybe I’ve talked about this in my reviews before. Music just has the ability to short out my brain and go directly to my heart. And of course since this is a movie about Mozart it naturally has this beautiful and unearthly music.

My problem however is that I really know nothing of Mozart. My entire knowledge of his life comes from this movie, and of course it’s all a pack of lies. It’s a fictionalization based on people who actually lived, but fiction nonetheless. Still – as a story it is so gripping and memorable. It’s the tale of Antonio Salieri, a mediocre composer who is obsessed with the music of Mozart – but who is disgusted by the man himself. Salieri knows all too well that his talent is nowhere near that of Mozart’s, and deeply resents that fact.

It’s F. Murray Abraham’s performance that really makes the movie. (Well that and the music.) He narrates beneath a ton of makeup from some point in the future when Salieri is an old man, convinced that he is directly responsible for Mozart’s death. He’s a man wracked with guilt, maddened. So the whole movie is a flashback to explain his madness. And Abraham so perfectly captures that tortured soul. His obsession is palpable.

There’s an absolutely brilliant scene right at the end of the movie where a near death Mozart is dictating his requiem mass to Salieri and he deconstructs the music into its component parts and recites it the way it already exists in his head. It’s intercut with Mozart’s wife rushing home from the spa where she has gone because she has a dark premonition. It’s an astonishing piece of film making that never ceases to amaze me. And that pretty much characterises the entire movie for me. Pure genius.

Who in the world can’t empathise with a man who is obsessed with his own mediocrity, who knows that he’ll never be as great as those who somehow tower above us with talent that cannot be explained but which dwarfs us all?

“Mediocrities everywhere. I absolve you.”

May 2, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment