Rarely has a film so wilfully indulged in the extravagances of a period as readily as Amadeus did. The Academy Awards it won for Best Make-up, Costume Design and Art Direction may be overshadowed by the five others it took (including Best Picture, and Best Actor), but they were well deserved: the film is a sumptuous evocation of late 18th Century Vienna, puffed up by all the pastels the mid-80s could muster [the scene where Salieri is hiding behind a malteser-pineapple is perhaps the purest distillation of that decade committed to camera]. But it is far from being just an aesthetic object: the plot (taken from Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play of the same name) is a slow car-crash that draws in all those that pass-by; the score (and its execution) are exceptional, and the acting is stellar. Tom Hulce (nominated for the Best Actor Oscar that his counter-part F. Murray Abraham won) embodies the impishness of Mozart’s genius, which Salieri found so confounding, and manages to capture all its grating, effortless superiority in a squawked laugh. Abraham himself is the man in despair par excellence. He is Salieri, but he could be any person through the ages racked by power and inferiority. The list of deserving mentions (Forman, Zaentz) would take up this, and two other posts. Just watch it, or better, let the genius of Amadeus wash over you.
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