Not Mozart the musical, but it does contain Mozart’s music

This is not a musical about the legendary Mozart, the man who brought the world the ‘divine’ operas The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni, among others, but which are recreated in part in Amadeus (1984).

I know that some people liked the musical episodes in this film more than the story, but I am not in that camp. I appreciated the music, but enjoyed the story, the production and performances more.

It is no straightforward, sentimentalized bio-pic of the musical genius, who wrote his first symphony at age five (a fact which I forever remember in the extended remix of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus.). Perhaps some inspiration could be leveraged from his life, but not in this film.

Amadeus is fiction, based on the play by Anthony Shaffer, that takes liberties about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and imagines his descent at the hands of another Austrian composer, who in history perhaps had a good relationship with Mozart.

This man, Salieri, is fictionalized as a rival in the film, who appears friendly and well-mannered but seethes with jealousy at Mozart’s better abilities and gifts in music.

Salieri was also disillusioned by Mozart because of his appetite for the seamier side of life, which according to this film was Mozart’s crude, rude and unconventional side, but Mozart’s music held a rare purity of sound, beauty, and skill, which came naturally to Mozart, a fact that confused and infuriated Salieri.

Salieri plotted Mozart’s downfall in a silently brooding and calculated effort to swipe the man of genius from his pedestal and put this “trained monkey” in his place.

Cold hearted snake Salieri was, his obsession to be the best consumed him though he would never reach Mozart’s heights. His confession to a priest comes after his suicide attempt, because of his guilt at doing the unthinkable, to rid the world of Mozart and another human being.

Yet his music is what Salieri connects with. It is flawless and remarkably skilled yet triggers Salieri’s base instincts, instincts which have nothing to do with Mozart’s music, but with Salieri’s nature.

In the end, from a bird’s eye view, God who bestows the gifts has no favorites.
This was my first serious film that I really appreciated—so have a special place in my heart for it.

Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) confession of jealousy and revenge to a Catholic priest frames the drama. It takes a while for Salieri to unleash his “demons”—in a sophisticated plot to kill Mozart (Tom Hulce) involving the ‘ghostly’ presence of Mozart’s overbearing father and the naïve complicity of Mozart’s wife (Elizabeth Berridge) who is susceptible to Salieri’s good manners.

Salieri’s passions had been simmering underneath for a good hour-and-so into the film during which Amadeus may be faulted at being too literary minded. However, Amadeus works, and production values and musical episodes are done to the hilt.



Revised version, original published Entertainmentnutz.com, 2000. Amadeus (1984) ****½ Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge. Director: Milos Forman.

 

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Stan (2018) by Stan Walker

I have never been a follower of New Zealand singer Stan Walker, but his most personal album to date is worth a listen. Walker has released a short album, an EP, a nice collection of six songs, coming after his ill health. The songs strike a different tempo than what he’s done before. It sounds like a lite version of Justin Bieber’s Purpose, with that kind of ambiance and echo, but mixes this sound around quite a bit. There’s variety, with songs about struggle and real life, relationship and loved ones, one in the Maori language, and a heartfelt spiritual song about his relationship with the Lord that’s breathtaking (‘I Surrender’). One can’t help but think that the subjects of his songs have something to do with his personal experiences, but I don’t know. Whatever the reason for the songs, Stan Walker is telling it from the heart. “Stan” is simple but not simplistic and layered in something deep that resonates through his vocals. A quiet pop album, but reaching greater heights than your average. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Invisible Touch (1986) by Genesis

Genesis’ 1986 pop rock album Invisible Touch is musically half an infectious album, the second half puts it out of whack, just a bit. Interesting, in-depth, not superficial lyrics about the subtleties and intricacies of love and commitment, In Too Deep standing out, and Land of Confusion challenging apathy and the status quo. But on second thoughts there is not much light in the album’s songs. It’s kept on my shelf because it connects with the human condition and the infectious songs that open the album–Invisible Touch; Tonight, Tonight, Tonight; Land of Confusion; and, In Too Deep, with Throwing It all Away the highlight towards the end of the album.

Star Wars music today–is it any good?

The soundtrack to Star Wars The Force Awakens (2015) by John Williams is a must buy for me, because it’s a Star Wars, but is it any good?

In 1977, the Star Wars theme music cemented unmistakably in pop culture. Everyone or almost everyone knows it although the others are in denial or have never seen the film.

The Star Wars main theme is not the only remarkable, memorable moment of Star Wars music.

The entire film scoring of the original Star Wars—which includes every section of music in the film—was brilliant.

To add to its unanimous two thumbs up in the popular consciousness, it was voted the American Film Institute’s top film score in 2005 and won the Oscar.

In 1980 and 1983, Star Wars continued its resonance in popular culture.

“The Imperial March”, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is resounding and powerful…utterly memorable. The Imperial March is now an iconic part of popular culture.

“The Asteroid Field” is palpitatingly good, the music accompaniment to the asteroid field scene in The Empire Strikes Back.

There were many other resonate moments. Return of the Jedi boasted “Into the Trap”, “The Emperor”, “Return of the Jedi” and “The Forest Battle”, and more.

John Williams’ musical soundtrack to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts off like the old days. It’s compelling, as the Main Title and “The Attack on Jakku Village” recalls the old days of the smooth transition between opening music and what follows.

These transitions are delightful in all the original Star Wars films as the booming main title smooths subtly into the evocative tones of the first scenes.

Unfortunately, the rest of the musical soundtrack to The Force Awakens made me think about the good old days when Star Wars music was original, lively, and resonant. Or it was unshakably memorable, music you wouldn’t forget–The Force Awakens has little that compels or resonates in that vein. It seems rather lackadaisical and repetitive.

All this soundtrack does is sit in my CD rack as a necessary addition to my collection, but not a very liked one. It’s hard to recapture a little of the old magic of. Done once, but not again. Watch the film with the music instead.

Essential reading

I wouldn’t call myself an avid devotional reader. Apart from the Bible, the devotional literature I have read is minimal. So minimal in fact, that the devotional book I’m currently finishing is the only devotional book (apart from the Bible) I’m about to finish in its entirety.

It’s so good I couldn’t put it down. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis is essential reading for any Christian or anybody.

It’s humbling, challenging, inspiring, and glorifies God, and can put ego in perspective.

This God-focussed book may boil it down to Christ divine, his grace and love for fallen humanity is available for those who want to seriously follow him.

Of course, that summary may simplify this special, spiritual book, which will take one by the heart and spirit as much as the mind.

It’s also beautifully written as if God was orchestrating his music through it.

The final judge?

There are different levels of engaging media and art, but the top level perhaps, is when a work or piece of art speaks to the heart. Then one has engaged with the “eyes” of the heart, which is a genuine response. One can begin to see everything in “level one”, the level of seeing what speaks to the heart, and this may be a genuine response. Would seeing with the “eyes of the heart” be the final judge?

Heavy in small, but memorable, doses

Been a week away from reading anything. Haven’t read Dante’s Inferno for a week. It concerns me because I should be reading something every day nearly.

A week is too long absent from a book. But, alas, there is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to rest from reading.

Predicting in a week I’ll be back to the book and from there on to the finish line–when the book is finished.

Reading books is interesting, but it can also take it out of you. Inferno is ‘heavy’ in the sense it’s about lost souls in hell and Dante is giving a commentary on it. His commentary is sometimes caustic though I know it’s sort of humorous because he meets people he disliked in hell. Dante is also very serious about what’s going on in the underworld–it’s horrific.

Half-finished

At the end of this week I read less of Dante’s Inferno and am listening to music. Inferno is still on my radar to finish because I just want to. I don’t like to say that I finished the book half-way through. That’s not even finishing it. If I stopped reading it, I would become a statistic, the half finishes statistic. Following through on reading the book is a must, but at my leisure.