Amadeus Director's Cut review

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You're wondering what the point is, aren't you? After all, Milos Forman's 1984 version of Peter Shaffer's ace play has always been spellbinding. The account of jealous 18th-century composer Salieri (F Murray Abraham) and his schemes to destroy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is majestic, bawdy, unnerving, funny and tragic.

With his native Prague standing in for Vienna, Forman's images of icy beauty counterpoint the soaring music and grandstanding performances. In Salieri, Abraham creates one of the screen's great wronged men, driven beyond sense that such flawless sound is gifted to a capering, foul-mouthed bumpkin like Mozart. Lazy critics argue that Hulce's man-child Mozart (with his fingernails-scraping-down-a-blackboard cackle) is too simple, too light, too two-dimensional. Lazy critics just aren't thinking it through. Mozart has to be simple, light and two- dimensional - that's exactly what drives Salieri up the wall...

And then there's the music. Cinema is usually great at telling you someone is a genius - it's just not very good at showing you. Not so Amadeus. Forman and Shaffer elegantly pick apart the structure of Mozart's music, showing off the polished perfect parts, before recombining them into a nerve-strumming whole that transcends its constituents. Never enjoyed `poncey' classical music before? You will after this. But back to the big question: what's the point of a director's cut of an already - ahem - note perfect film? Is this just an attempt to boost sales of a DVD release or - as with Apocalypse Now - is it truly worthwhile? Oh yes.

Some of the extra footage - more scenes of Mozart failing as a tutor and more overt examples of Salieri working against him - is negligible. Not so the additions to moments featuring Mozart's wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge) and Salieri. Adding three scenes and expanding others, Forman breathes life into a relationship between the two that only exists in ghostly flashes in the original cut. The changes are harsh and powerful and make a great film deeper, more satisfying and, yes, simply better than before.

Three hours soar past in this intoxicating bio-mystery. Without the changes Amadeus would still be well worth catching on the big screen. With them it's unmissable.

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