Oscars Project: Movie #17

(Explanation of The Oscars Project here. The content of this post likely contains SPOILERS. You've been warned!)

From 1984:

Summary: Music. Pianos. Big Wigs. No, it's not an Elton John concert--it's the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told from the perspective of his biggest rival, Antonio Salieri. Mozart was crazy with genius; Salieri was crazy with envy.

My commentary: The movie, based on a play, opens with an elderly Salieri attempting to kill himself out of guilt from the belief that he was directly responsible for Mozart's death. It's a pretty gruesome but grabbing beginning. As Salieri, neck bandaged, confesses to a priest visiting him in the sanitarium, he tells of how decades ago he attempted to interfere with Mozart's obvious genius because he believed God had made a mistake in endowing Mozart, a rather vulgar and immature man, with so much brilliance. In fact, in one dramatic scene, Salieri is so miffed at God for not answering his fervent prayer to be a celebrated composer that he tears the crucifix from the wall and throws it into the fire. I bet if his Italian mama had still been alive, she would've beaten him into a stain on the floor for that. See also Salieri's description of the first time he sees Mozart (fourth one down on the list).

While Salieri insists that he caused Mozart's death by anonymously commissioning a Requiem Mass (that becomes the requiem for Mozart himself) that he planned to claim he composed, it does seem that Mozart's hard partying and the culture's "hostile and unreceptive" approach (Peske & West, 78) to his music (thereby impoverishing him) would be to blame as well. I did pull my The New ["New" meaning 1971 and probably originally my parents'] Encyclopedia of the Opera by David Ewen off the shelf and found a different story about the Requiem Mass and Mozart's death--that a Count Franz von Walsegg had been the fake patron and did in fact copy the Requiem in an attempt to take credit for it (p. 462-3).

The playwright's liberties aside, it was overall a very interesting movie. Even if the audience doesn't have much sympathy for Salieri, they're hooked on the story. I was. (In fact, I nearly jumped out of my seat when the movie ended abruptly--or so I thought. Turns out it was one of those "movie continued on other side of disc" deals. Sheesh. You'd think they'd flash a message on the screen or something.)

Amadeus was the dominating winner of the Oscars that year--eight wins, and of course Best Costume Design makes perfect sense. It did seem a little weird that Abraham and Hulce were pitted against each other in the Best Actor category, and I'm not sure I agree with the outcome. Maybe Wolfie's laugh grated on the judges' nerves after awhile. (The Oscar Movies' Pickard called Hulce "the unluckiest man of the evening" (p. 7). Also, Elizabeth Berridge, who played Mozart's wife Constanze, did not receive a nomination, and I thought that while she probably would not have beaten Sally Field, her performance at least should have been acknowledged. There's also an appearance by a rather young Cynthia Nixon as the maid hired by Salieri to spy on Mozart. Twyla Tharp did the choreography for the operatic performances, and those are all very impressive scenes.

I would recommend this movie, if not as a "must-see," then at least as something to add to one's "seen it" repertoire. "Heard it" might be more accurate--the music throughout is just as important a part as Salieri's narration, and it is beautifully done.

Peske and West point to this movie as "reassurance that your talent will eventually win out despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary" (p. 78), and I guess that's true. . . if you're the kind of artist who cares more about contributing to the arts than getting recognition.

Next up: An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)


Cullen said…
Bum. Bum. Bum. Rock me Amadeus.

I love this movie. It's been ages since I last watched it, but I saw it shortly after it came out on video back in the day.

And IIRC from Music Appreciation ages ago, Salieri was a pretty successful composer in real life. There were quite a few liberties taken by the playwright. Still, great movie.
Annie Coe said…
I loved this movie (even if it was not factual) and have seen it many times, perhaps it is time to see it again! xoxo
Annie Coe said…
P.S. I do hope the painting arrives today, as the PO promised!
Kate P said…
Cullen--Yeah, Falco! That song was so much fun. I'm soooo old.
Salieri was the court composer for the Emperor, which definitely was a prestigious job.

Annie--yes, do go enjoy it again! Maybe it will inspire some painting. And I am very excited for mine to arrive. Tomorrow, I hope!
Mr. Bingley said…
I adore Amadeus; one of my favorite all-time flicks.
Kate P said…
It is very watchable, isn't it, Bingley? And the music is just glorious.

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