Amadeus: Director's Cut Movie Review

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There's a moment early in Amadeus when court composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) wanders through a crowded salon in search of the famed prodigy known to him by reputation only: Mozart. Inspecting each young musician, he looks for some outward sign of genius: the "man who had written his first concerto at the age of four, his first symphony at seven, and a full-scale opera at 12."

Soon after, we and with Salieri first lay eyes on Mozart - not the halo-crowned demigod built up in music history classes, but instead a mischievous, arrogant vulgar puck with a cackling laugh. But Milos Forman's stunning epic didn't win eight Academy Awards for simply reducing classical music royalty to child-like stature.

Instead of attempting to simply be a biographical sketch of a master, the story is told by an aged Salieri who - now committed to a sanitarium after a suicide attempt - confesses his desperate tale to a priest. From that first meeting, Salieri grows ever more jealous of the impish Mozart's gift, and increasingly angry with the God whom he feels has forsaken him after a lifetime of "servitude." Ultimately, he plots to get rid of his nemesis the old fashioned way - murder. It's a pathetic fable of mediocrity's envy of brilliance, and the cursed mission to overcome God's will. All this set against the striking backdrop of 18th-century Vienna - in all its filth and splendor, driven by the virtuosity of Mozart's compositions.

Amadeus is one of those magical and rare films with a nearly perfect mixture of beautiful writing, glorious music, elegant cinematography, remarkable acting, dazzling art direction, and an engrossing story. It ranges from grand to ribald, from hilarious to heartbreaking, from chilling to endearing. It put relative no-names like F. Murray Abraham in the spotlight, and furthered the already promising careers of greats like director Milos Forman. And it is by far one of my favorite films of all time.

The bad news about this new Director's Cut is that not too much has changed from the original, but the good news is that not too much has changed from the original. While the trailers boast 20 minutes of additional material, the deleted scenes are nothing to write home about, although they are sewn tidily into the original to make the film look virtually unchanged. Only one additional scene sheds new light on a slightly confusing moment from the original, explaining why later in the film Mozart's wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge) is coarse with Salieri when she finds him tending to Mozart on his deathbed. Otherwise, the new clips are simple distractions, generally reiterating points already well-defined the first time around or giving us a couple of new laughs.

The big improvement is truly in the remastering of the images and soundtrack, which will be especially noticeable for those who have never seen Amadeus on the big screen. On the other hand, the reissue's greatest drawback is its attention-span challenging three-plus hour length (188 minutes). But don't be daunted. Great films like this one make a numb butt worth the bother.

Most likely Amadeus: Director's Cut won't be a box office topper (especially considering it'll only be in limited release), but it's a treat for those of us who hold special memories of the original and high regard for spectacular filmmaking in general. Just make sure you go to the bathroom right before the trailers.

Rock 'em, Amadeus.

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Amadeus: Director's Cut Rating

" Essential "

Rating: PG, 1984

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