Amadeus: Director’s Cut

January 28, 2012 9 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?

As mentioned earlier, this is now the second incarnation of the movie on DVD. Originally released back in the Spring of 1997 (yes, nearly six years ago), we finally have a new transfer (though the old was anamorphic) and don’t have to get up to flip the disc to side B. This new transfer has never looked better and though it still pales by comparison to some of Warner’s other releases, the addition of the Director’s Cut and the restoration make it all worthwhile. Though most of the shots are indoor and tend to be a bit “murky”, they do have a bright, vivid quality to them that really make this stand out. The color palette used, though muted, looks good but some edge enhancement does manage to show through. Still, the movie is nearly twenty years old now and though I’m sure we’ll have a better-looking transfer some day, this is the best way to see it now. A good effort with a noticeable improvement over the original.

Audio: How does it sound?

One of the shining examples of DVD back in it’s early days, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack has been re-mastered for this release as well. Though most of the sound is from the front channels, there are a few key scenes when all channels are buzzing away. Naturally, the orchestra effects are a lot easier to duplicate and therefore sound better than some other movies of this day. One minor complaint, though, as the original had an isolated 5.1 soundtrack whereas this one doesn’t. Still, the track sounds clean and crystal clear and it’s another noticeable improvement over its predecessor.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This is another in a series of two-disc editions from Warner. Along with other titles like Singin’ in the Rain, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Unforgiven, they’re to be joined by some others in the future (The Color Purple and Driving Miss Daisy). While the supplements on this edition aren’t as robust as others, it’s quality not quantity that counts here. The hour long documentary is very interesting and literally covers the process from casting to editing, with everything in between. New interviews with the stars (Tom Hulce looks almost unrecognizable) only add to the splendor of this very well-made documentary. Lest we not forget the screen specific audio commentary by Milos Forman and Screenwriter Peter Shaffer. Though the film runs a solid three hours now, there are some dull spots, but this isn’t the same track from the LaserDisc set a few years back. Peter Shaffer’s track has been edited in with the already existing track from Forman’s track from the LD. It’s an interesting listen and fans of the movie will be more than happy with it. There are some cast and crew bios along with the theatrical trailer as well. That’s it for the supplements, but the film more than speaks for itself. Run, don’t walk to pick this up!

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