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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