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USA 1984
Directed by
Milos Forman
159 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


This sumptuous biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart takes a very unconventional approach to the story of the composer's life thanks to the film's star, Tom Hulce who plays Mozart as an over-grown adolescent with a silly laugh performance (apparently Hulce based his performance in part on the antics of tennis super-brat, John McEnroe) . Whilst this will not be to traditionalists’  taste, the film, which won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, a double whammy that Forman had already snaffled in 1975 with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (an asylum theme tops and tails this film) nevertheless has much to recommend it with a strong Peter Schaffer script based his own play that explores the bitter fruit of artistic jealousy  in a fine counter-balancing performance by F. Murray Abraham as the arch-villain Salieri (Abraham, a relative unknown, won the Best Actor Oscar for which Hulce was also nominated), along with superb production design, not to mention Forman's strong direction and, extensive use of Mozart’s music which is cleverly integrated into the narrative.  Continuing the unusual casting Jeffrey Jones makes for a likeable Emperor Joseph II.

Filmed in Prague, capital of Forman's home country, Czechoslovakia, the film never looks less than convincing (well, Hulce’s Flock of Seagulls haircut strains credulity somewhat) and its against-grain approach arguably works in its favour, giving it a vitality that a more conventionally reverential approach probably would not have had. Hulce, whose only prior screen appearance of note was Animal House (1978) never came so close again to stardom since nor did Elizabeth Berridge, who plays his young wife, Constanze.

FYI: There was a director's cut released in 2002 although it did not really do more than add 20 minutes to the consequentially overlong running time.




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