Amadeus (1984)

This masterpiece falls within two unpopular categories: 1, it is a period piece and 2, it runs at almost three hours. Few of our generation have seen it, despite its stellar critical reception and numerous awards won (including the Academy Award for Best Picture). In my opinion, however, it is part of the elite circle of long-running films that is so entertaining the time flies by; others include Gone with the Wind and Titanic (and certainly not the almost-four hour Ben-Hur which needed immense trimming).

On the surface, it is a biopic about Mozart through the eyes of a competitor composer, Salieri, but it offers a rich commentary on fame and celebrity. F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce are perfect as Salieri and Mozart, respectively, and through the swiftly moving screenplay we see their first meeting, growing competitive natures, and ultimately forgiveness and acceptance. In one of the film’s best scenes, they collaborate on Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, and we see two masters at work: Mozart in bed, dictating the melodies and harmonies as Salieri commits the music to paper. While this situation is very likely a fictional one, it is a fascinating and engaging look at the creative process when it comes to songwriting, an art very rarely explored in the movies.

Even beyond the content, another impressive feature of the film is its style. Almost every scene is played to excess, with elaborate wigs, costumes, and Mozart’s childish and vulgar (yet hilarious) behavior. Without being as blatant as films like Marie Antoinette (2006), Amadeusmanages to feel contemporary despite its late-18th century setting.

While it is difficult to find three hours’ free to plop down and watch an epic period piece, Amadeus is well worth the effort. You have never seen anything like it and likely never will.

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