I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!”
This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.
Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.
When I was a kid, I took piano lessons for two years, and classical music was at the heart of what I was learning. That endeavor has been largely wasted in the subsequent time. I can’t remember anything about playing, I can’t read music, and for a long time I was ignorantly avoiding that style of music. I college I did take a class in concert music, but I skated by with as little effort as I could put into it. In 1984 however, my love of this genre returned with the release of this film.
I’d seen the stage play of this story earlier in the year, but it did not prepare me for the onslaught of beauty and awe that Mozart’s music is. The film wallows in it. The opening use of music from Don Giovani sets the stage for everything that happens later. It is dramatic, closely tied to the visuals and it moves the audience in the way the director intended. There are a dozen moments like this in the film, and the music is as big a co-star as any of the actors.
Of course the actors are not too shabby either. Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham dance a duet of acting performance that may never have been matched since. Mozart is a callow self centered genius who is only appreciated to the degree he deserves by the resentful mediocrity Salieri. Every time Hulce laughs, we are amused but also indignant. Why is this master at music so awkward at life in the court? Salieri allows jealousy to spoil his pious and grateful love of God and turn him into a smooth monster, determined to stifle the greatness that he himself lacks.
No one should take this as history, it is a fiction using real characters but everyone can see how it might have been this way (it wasn’t). The production uses Prague as a substitute for Vienna, and it works for me. The costuming is amazing and there are musical moments in the film that you might wish to have as a complete concert or opera. Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields supply the music and there were two double albums released to allow us to celebrate it.
Anytime someone has a top twenty list of films, and this does not appear on it. I doubt their credibility or taste. I am still not an classical music connoisseur, but I am a fan, and this film brought me back to that world. I wish I could sit in the theater again, waiting for the first time to see this film. The moment of euphoria it provided has led me to decades of pursuing the same high in movie theaters and concert halls. And that is something a film should aspire to do.
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