Amadeus (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Amadeus might remembered the most for coming out of nowhere to win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1984. The heavily-favored A Passage to India was destined to sweep the Oscars, but little did they expect Milos Forman’s work to take the top honor (it ultimately ended up winning 9 Oscars that night). But should we expect less from Milos Foreman? I mean the guy did One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest! Still, it was a testament to how good the film actually was (and still is) when you can take a movie about a classical composer, albeit probably the best composer in history, and make a very entertaining movie out of it. While the cast was relatively unknown (Tom Hulce, who played Amadeus, was best-known for his role in Animal House), this didn’t matter. And, lest we not forget, this movie is about the relationship between Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and his extreme jealousy towards the more naturally gifted Mozart (Tom Hulce). But we’ll get to all that later…And while the film, now running at 180 minutes with the addition of the Director’s Cut, continues to grow in the hearts of fans and critics this is the way it was meant to be seen.

As the movie opens, we see that Salieri is an old man living in a church. A noted musician in his own respect and right, he is having a conversation with a younger priest. As it turns out, the movie is told in a series of flashbacks, back to the day when Amadeus was in his prime and before he unknowingly ruined the life of one Salieri. Essentially, that’s the story, but as we see how innocent Amadeus was and how it almost seemed like an afterthought his music was, we see how Salieri could become so enraged at the mere appearance of him. Mozart, a struggling prodigy of a composer, is sought out to be the new composer to the king (Jeffery Jones). Though he is somewhat of a musician himself, he’s no match for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (hence proving that God sometimes bestows gifts on some of his most unsuspecting subjects). While Mozart had nearly free reign to do what he pleased, he was considered the far better of the two (Salieri and he), but Salieri’s knowledge of music came from practice, study and trying to constantly please the king. He had no natural talent and it literally angered him until the day he died.

Admittedly, this is a rather abbreviated rundown of what actually happens in the film. It, in a way, chronicles his life and it’s very interesting and fun to watch. Very few of the performances here could have been done by other actors and though every time I see Amadeus I think of “Flounder” from Animal House, that shouldn’t be. Additionally, this new Director’s Cut of the movie gives us about twenty additional minutes of footage added back into the movie. And, for all of those of you out there wondering, yes we do get to see the topless scene with Constatine Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge) showing exactly how much she loves her husband and the lengths that she is willing to go to see that he will succeed at his work. A far improvement over the original issue of the movie (one of the very first DVD’s out…ever), this is an easy recommendation and a great addition to any collection. The film, in addition to winning Best Picture, has also garnered a spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 Movies of all time (#53), so if my review and the other accolades that this picture has gathered over time haven’t convinced you, maybe that will. Highly recommended.

Video: How does it look?

“Amadeus” is one of Warner’s best-selling catalog titles and with good reason, it brought home the Oscar for Best Picture. One of the first standard DVD’s issued, “Amadeus” has seen a lot of progress throughout the years. This new 2.35:1 VC-1 HD transfer is, by far, the best the movie has ever looked though it still does pale in comparison to some of the other titles out there. A majority of the movie is filmed indoors and the color palette is muted to say the least. The biggest improvement here is the detail, which has been bumped up and it really makes some of the costumes seen in the film look a lot better. There’s still a bit of dirt on the print and it’s evident in several scenes but don’t let this sway you. “Amadeus” has never looked better and this new Blu-ray showcases every inch of the production in glorious detail.

Audio: How does it sound?

Also new is the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack which has some moments that sound simply amazing. I can remember being in a home theater store about a dozen years ago and there was a scene from this movie being displayed as one of the finest examples of how pure and crystal clear sound could be. As it turns out, time has been kind to “Amadeus” and the magnificent score by Sir Neville Marriner sounds as good as ever. This isn’t the kind of soundtrack that has a lot of “thuds” and “booms” but more on the higher scale of things. Dialogue is crystal clear and some of the operas have truly never sounded better. There are also 5.1 soundtracks in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This is yet in another of Warner’s line of “Book” Blu-rays in which the disc(s) are literally packaged in a book-like case. All of the supplements from the previous special edition DVD have made the transition to this Blu-ray. Milos Foreman and Peter Schaffer’s commentary track remains intact as well as the very robust “The Making of ‘Amaedus'” documentary which covers the entire process from casting to completion. A theatrical trailer is also included as is a bonus CD of Mozart’s music, a digital copy of the film and lest we forget the 35 page book which houses some cast photos and essays. This is probably the most definitive version of “Amadeus” to date and a must for fans.

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