Movie: out of
In 1984, director Milos Forman and playwright Peter Shaffer brought the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the big screen in Amadeus, and Warner Brothers has released the 2002 director’s cut to Blu-ray. Sadly, the original theatrical cut is not available on this release.
The story is told in flashbacks by Antonio Salieri (in an Oscar-winning performance by F. Murray Abraham) as part of a confession to a priest after attempting suicide. The focus of the story is on the rivalry between the mediocre Vienna Court Composer Salieri and the magnificent Mozart (Tom Hulce, in an Oscar-nominated performance). What torments Salieri the most is that such wonderful, inspired, and sublime music could come from such a vulgar, spoiled young man, which eventually drives Salieri mad.
Amadeus is beautiful in both its music and art design, and contains solid performances from each member of its then-unknown cast. In addition to Abraham and Hulce, be on the lookout for Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph II, Elizabeth Berridge (cast after Meg Tilly had to bow out just prior to production due to an injury) as Mozart’s wife, Costanze, Roy Dotrice as Mozart’s father, Christine Ebersol as the object of Salieri’s secret affections, and a very young Cynthia Nixon as the Mozart’s housekeeper and Salieri’s spy.
Video: out of
Amadeus has had a very bad record on home video, with most prior releases suffering from washed out colors, giving the film a dull, grey palette. These prior releases are what has kept me from watching this film in its entirety all these years.
The good news about this Blu-ray release is that Warner’s 1080p VC-1 encode is a vast improvement, with solid colors and deep blacks. The bad news is that it does appear that some DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) may have been applied, which does on a few occasions produce smearing and pasty-looking flesh tones, but I found them to be few and far between, and almost purposeful considering the makeup styles of the period. The DNR does not hamper detail in strands of hair, fabrics, etc., especially F. Murray Abraham’s complexion.
Considering the film was made in the early 1980s, when much of the film stock used during this period has since proven to be unstable, and that it was an independent production filmed and processed in Prague under Communist rule, this is probably the best Amadeus is going to look.
Audio: out of
Warner has provided both a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (encoded at 640 kbps) as well a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack for this edition of Amadeus, with the disc defaulting to the lossy Dolby Digital track.
Amadeus is a very dialogue-driven movie, and for the most part is a very front-heavy mix. The exception is during musical passages, where the room fills with the sonic brilliance of Sir Neville Marriner’s arrangements of classical music by Mozart and Salieri. The dynamic range and deep bass are very impressive.
Special Features: out of
It appears as though Warner has ported over all of the special features from the previous 2-disc DVD.
Commentary By Director Milos Forman and Writer Peter Shaffer – Forman and Shaffer discuss the making of this film, and pepper it with tidbits on how the stage play differs from the movie, trivia on the characters and actors, as well as other urban myths surrounding the lives of Mozart and Salieri. Although there are times of dead silence between the two, this is a very enlightening listen.
The Making of Amadeus – This one-hour documentary features interviews with all of the principals, including Forman, Shaffer, Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge, and Jeffrey Jones. They all tell interesting and often amusing stories of making this film in Prague when it was still under Communist rule.
Warner Brothers has issued this Blu-ray release of Amadeus in its digi-book packaging, complete with a 35 page color insert of text and photos of the production. I have mixed feelings about the digi-book. While it looks classy at first, the corners of the cover have already become slightly bent, and a few of the pages are becoming bent, as well. The binding used in this design also makes it difficult to page through the book easily.
Warner has included a Special CD Compilation of 8 tracks of Mozart’s music that is featured in the movie. The disc is housed in the back of the digi-book as part of the packaging.
Also included is a Digital Copy of the film on DVD-Rom. Sadly, Warner has only included a Windows Media version that can only be played Windows-based computers and laptops, and Windows Plays For Sure portable devices. There is no option for iPods, iTunes, or Macs. Having recently shopped for a portable media device, I can safely say there are no current portable devices on the market (from a major manufacturer) that can play Windows Media video files with DRM protection.
Overall: out of
Amadeus came very close to a Highly Recommended, if it were not for the video transfer used on this release. Also, I found the lack of an iTunes option on the Digital Copy very disappointing. Still, this is not the major disappointment that many on the internet have made this disc out to be. It is not a great disc, but it is not a bad disc either.
This DVD was reviewed on the following home theater gear:
- Toshiba 56HM66 DLP HDTV
- Sony Playstation 3 (outputting to 1080i)
- Yamaha HTR-5940 Home Theater Receiver (in 5.1 configuration)
- Yamaha NS-AP2600 Home Cinema Speaker Package
- Yamaha YST-SW010 subwoofer