Friday Favorites 8/8/2014

amadeusThere are films I can watch again and again.  My wife, Muri, finds that a bit peculiar but I look at it this way: Don’t we listen to the same song, the same concerto, again and again, even though we know every lyric and every note by heart?  Just as we wait for the Ode to Joy as we listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, can’t we anticipate the moment when David and Margaret drive through the falling cherry blossoms to the tune of At Last in Pleasantville? (scene here).   Is reliving the look on the warden’s face when he realizes Andy has escaped in Shawshank Redemption (scene here) any less enjoyable than hearing again that You can check out any time you want but you can never leave from the Hotel California?

Wednesday night, I settled into my recliner to watch the Milos Forman film, Amadeus.  In may ways, Amadeus could be my favorite film … it combines an intriguing, historically based plot, interesting characters, amazing performances, a gorgeous recreation of 19th century Vienna, and Mozart’s incredible music.  I do, however, have to be in a certain mood to watch it.  For one, it has so many of those moments I love that it requires my almost undivided attention (meaning: no blogging).  Tom Hulce’s portrayal of the petulant, vulgar and rude Amadeus (which is apparently fairly true to the man) is so annoying that it’s hard not to root for Solieri stop messing around and kill him off.  In case you missed it, Antonio Solieri is the established court composer for the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II when the young and arrogant Mozart arrives on the scene.   In Mozart’s work, Solieri can hear the voice of God and he becomes increasingly bitter that while God has given him the ability to hear the divine in music, he has given the ability to create such music to to a vulgar, crude boy.  He begins to work behind the scenes to thwart Mozart’s success, eventually secretly commissioning a Requiem Mass that he will steal after murdering Amadeus and claim as his own composition.   The contrast between Solieri’s hate for Mozart and the reluctant joy he feels in listening to his music drives the film.  In this scene, Solieiri realizes Mozart’s brilliance as he reads several Mozart scores brought to him by Amadeus’ wife, Constanza.

As someone who’s always loved music beyond words but never been able to create it, I’ve always found Solieri a kindred spirit.   No, I’m not going to hunt down Peter White (you see, Peter White is my favorite guitarist and if I was really like Solieri, I’d … oh, never mind).  The music is, of course, amazing, as is F. Murray Abraham’s portrayal of Solieri.

Of course, there are those (Older Eyes among them) who ask if there’s any truth in the story.  Solieri did, in his later years, claim to have poisoned Mozart and there were times during his decline that Mozart believed his was being poisoned.  However, while Solieri and Mozart were certainly professional rivals at times, their relationship was amicable and it is very unlikely that Solieri murdered Amadeus.  Solieri had a much richer life … including a marriage and eight children … and much more personal success than depicted in the film, just as Mozart’s opera’s were very popular at the time and did not close after a few performances.   While his work was certainly not on the level of Mozart’s, Solieri is well regarded as a composer and musician.  You can read more about Mozart and Solieri here and here if you are interested.  But all of that doesn’t detract from the quality of the film … or the drama of the (semi-fictional) screenplay by Peter Shaffer.

If you haven’t seen Amadeus, by all means do so.  And if you have, set aside a couple hours and enjoy it again.  It’s a Friday Favorite.

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