Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Amadeus

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, August 5, 2000

Funny little tune but it yielded some good things.

Special features

Awards Listing4
Cast Information4
Production Notes6

A man who loves music swears on oath to God to remain celibate if he could create great music... and God sends Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to taunt the man. A great movie, a good DVD flawed by requiring laser-disc style flipping. The acting and music were superb.

DirectorMilos Forman
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating5
  • Enhanced Widescreen

This is an early release, released in late 1997. It was a good choice for early release because the movie and the sound especially could really show off DVD’s capabilities. But this is a long movie, and it does not fit on a single side of a single layer DVD. The first side has the first 100 minutes, and the reverse side has the remaining 60 minutes. This is extremely annoying, and is one of the reasons I never got around to getting a laserdisc player. Nowadays this would be presented as a dual-layer DVD. It would be nice if they did switch over; I notice on my “Cabaret” packaging that it used to be a flipper as well, but with the advance of technology they made it fit on one side (and then never changed the packaging). I’ll admit it. I’m lazy, and I don’t want to get up off the couch and switch the DVD around. But it is more than that. Scene shifts are part of a director’s repertoire. This breaks one of those scene shifts. And of course making this a “flipper” also breaks up Neville Marriner’s wonderful Mozart/Salieri score.

The extras are duplicated on each side.

The age of the disk also shows in the menus. Menu selections don’t “stick”. For example, in the long list of notes, and in the long list of cast and crew members, when the menu returns to the list, the menu selection is reset to the top item in the list. The DVD should have been programmed to remember your last menu selection and either keep it chosen or move to the next choice.

The extras consist mostly of text-only information about the movie, the actors and director, and the making of the movie. It is interesting, but very, very short. The longest piece might well be the “awards listing”.

Besides the text-only extra information, the DVD contains a music-only track which turns off the voices and other movie noises and leaves only the Mozart/Salieri music. This in my opinion suffers worst from the need to ‘flip’ the disk two-thirds through the movie, because I tend to be doing other things when I’m listening to the music only. But it is still a great score.

This is a wonderful movie. The acting is uniformly good to great, the writing is near-perfect, the music, of course, beautiful. It is mostly a story of jealousy: Salieri has longed from youth for the talent that Mozart (in his mind) doesn’t deserve. Originally jealous merely of Mozart’s upbringing (Mozart’s father encouraged and taught his son music, Salieri’s father thought music a worthless profession), the jealousy grows. Partly it grows because of Mozart’s tactlessness, partly Mozart’s vulgarity, but mostly because Salieri is the kind of person who needs to feel wronged. And he doesn’t blame Mozart. He blames God. The story is told through an aged Salieri making his “confession” to a young, originally eager, naive priest following a suicide attempt.

The relationship between this film and actual history is interesting. They consciously made this tale from and into legends rather than following historical accuracy. But they did manage not to add any car chases or insufferable love triangles. The changes they made from history uplifted the movie rather than trivialized it. And they made no changes to Mozart’s music. That was one of Neville Marriner’s conditions for working on the movie and bringing his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. One of the text extras describes some of the differences between the movie and reality, and it is worth reading.

The award listing is long. Interestingly, the actor for Mozart (Tom Hulce) and the actor for Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) were both nominated for academy awards… and Salieri beat Mozart. I would tend to agree with this. Abraham did a really good job as the ‘middle-aged’ Salieri, but a wonderful, wonderful job as the aged Salieri speaking to the young priest about his war with God.

I have to start searching out Milos Forman films. He’s done “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Hair” and this film. All of the movies he’s directed, that I’ve seen, have become my favorites.

I paid less than two dollars for this DVD: I chose it as the ‘free’ disk for having purchased five Warner/New Line/HBO disks. I’m quite satisfied with it at that price. This is a great movie. But there are lots of great movies I haven’t bought yet, and I probably wouldn’t have been willing to pay full price for this outdated disk.

Recommendation: Rent

DirectorMilos Forman
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesEnglish, French
Special FeaturesAwards Listing, Cast Information, Production Notes
More links

If you enjoyed Amadeus…

For more about goth, you might also be interested in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

For more about madhouse, you might also be interested in King of Hearts, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Ruling Class.

For more about Milos Forman, you might also be interested in Hair and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

For more about musical, you might also be interested in A Star is Born, Almost Elvis, Cabaret, Going My Way/Holiday Inn, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Blues Brothers, The Music Man, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Sound of Music, and The Wizard of Oz.