A to Z of Films Meme (A)

Some people watch films only for feel-good entertainment. “Going to the movies” is often a synonym of “having a nice time”. I respect their wish to avoid serious, dark, or depressing films. Somehow, I was able to nurture an open-mindedness that allowed me to appreciate a wider range of films than those intended purely for the box-office. Some of these films have affected me personally to a profound level, and hence I will include them in my list.

A

Amadeus

To say that I’m a big fan of Mozart would be a gross understatement. If anyone will believe it, I spent 16 years searching for a Divertimento that I ultimately discovered was composed by him at the age of just 16. Child prodigy, genius, art, artist, come together in this compelling drama of music in the 18th century. In Amadeus, the score is not secondary to the visuals, it is an equal and integral part of the cinematic experience.

AmadeusCharacterizing Mozart as a 18th century classical hippie rock star brought him down from a pedestal and made him accessible to the masses. Forman says he needed an unknown face, not a well-known celebrity, for playing Mozart and this explains the casting of Tom Hulce. Both Hulce and Abraham deliver strong performances – Hulce’s slight overacting was required of the script.

The film is based on Peter Schaffer’s fictional play, which takes plenty of dramatic license in altering Mozart and Salieri’s true character and relationship. Composition did not come easily to Mozart (the supposed ‘dictation from God’), they mutually respected each other, and Salieri did not squeeze The Requiem out of him during his last hours. Peter Brown’s “Amadeus and Mozart” set the record straight for those interested in separating fact from fiction. However, no other art work has popularized Mozart in over 200 years since his death, as Shaffer’s play and Forman’s film.

The filming of Don Giovanni is in the actual opera house where Mozart conducted its premiere. The costumes, streets, apartments, and palaces provide lots of ‘eye candy’. The Making Of Amadeus documentary describes the difficulties of shooting on location in Prague. The Director’s Cut has 20 minutes of additional footage, most importantly the scene of Salieri asking Constanze for sexual favors, Constanze visiting him at his apartment, and the burial of Mozart’s corpse.

Independent producer Saul Zaentz worked with Milos Forman to bring us Amadeus and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and we should be eternally grateful. Forman went on to direct the excellent The People vs. Larry Flynt.Apocalypse Now

Runner Up

Apocalypse Now

Adapting the germ of Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War, Coppola paints a masterful cinematic canvas unparalleled in its operatic scope. Brando’s Kurtz discovers the horror of war that we hope never to discover. The exhilarating and terrifying helicopter attack with Wagner at the background is an achievement in film-making. If the ending doesn’t make sense – it is not supposed to, for that is the brutality and horror of war, and there is no light in the heart of darkness. Coppola transports you magnificently into the insanity of war.

Other contenders were:

  • Ardh Satya, Nihalani’s landmark in Indian cinema
  • After Life, which made me think of what single memory would I like to carry with me after death
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  • Anand

    I haven’t seen Amadeus but will add it to my list – damn it’s 2 in a row 🙁

    My personal favorite would be ‘American Beauty’. (Disclaimer: I saw this movie, liked it, recommended it to others which resulted in some angry/frustrated responses, and watched it multiple times – all before it got the awards). The movie is based on the last year in the life of an average person. The frustrations of his wife and insecurities of his teenage daughter are beautifully portrayed. The other characters in the movie are also very well defined. Both Kevin Spacey (the central character) and Annette Bening (his wife) did a phenomenal job. The movie depicts various ‘things’ (incidences, situations, etc.) involving Kevin Spacey. Now it’s nearly impossible that one person will experience all of these ‘things’. However, any isolated ‘thing’ could happen to any average American living in the suburbia. That’s what I liked the best about the movie.

  • Very nice! You know what, I’m going to play a game with myself now – I’m going to predict to myself what movie you might mention next and see if you really do 🙂 Yes, I happen to have Amadeus (Director’s Cut) here too – watched it on a friend’s recommendation; liked it enough to want to own it.

    Didn’t know about Peter Brown; will look it up for certain. After Life and People Vs. Larry Flynt have been on my to-watch list for a while now – let me do something about it right away – thanks! 🙂

    g

  • Mahendra

    Amadeus is one of the few DVDs I own. I have watched it a few times and each time one finds something more. The consistent thing is the portrayals of both Mozart and Salieri are so dark. Evil – or hints to its existence – makes a far more interesting tale than good-egg-ness.

    Ardh Satya came out when I was very small (“A-certified”). And then I never got around to seeing it. But I remember my elder sister telling me it was a profound film, if somewhat brutal. I have a long list of DVDs to watch already. I shall look for this on LoveFilm.

    PS: Playing Mozart is eye-wateringly hard, especially if one is a “mature student”. When I began, I wanted to learn to play Beethoven’s bagatelle “Fuer Elise” which I did manage. But Beethoven’s music seems quite affected by Mozart’s so that remains a superset which I am uncertain of mastering unless I spend hours practising every day :-/

  • And of course, now I want to visit Vienna again. And Salzburg. Look what you did!

  • Mahendra:

    On a tangential note, BBC’s Radio 3 (which you can listen to online) is having a Mendelssohn weekend today and tomorrow.

  • great! that’s a lot of research. ur review makes me want to watch it, thanks 🙂

    on a tangential note, have you watched The Other Boleyn Girl? I thought it might be a good idea to watch this and Elizabeth together…

  • I liked that last line of Apocalypse revw the best, “If it doesn’t make sense…no light in the heart of darkness…”

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