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F. Murray Abraham

Amadeus

[Originally published in The Weekly, September 19, 1984]

A dark street; equally dark Panavision screen. Snow falling; offcenter, a street lamp. The cry “Mozart!” and a startling chord of music. Somewhere behind a door in Vienna, a forgotten old man named Antonio Salieri lifts a razor to his throat because, he maintains, many years ago he murdered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Servants burst in, find him bloodied, bundle him off to a combination hospital and asylum. As he is bounced through the wind-whipped night streets, Salieri hears the music of his long-dead victim, brighter than the bright upper-story windows behind which a party of revelers dance and dance and dance.

The first thing to be said about Milos Forman’s new film Amadeus is that if you didn’t already know it was derived from a stageplay, you’d never guess it from watching the movie. It’s a vibrant, supple, splendidly cinematic thing—intimate, concrete, fluid, and wide-ranging in time and space as Peter Shaffer’s clever play could never have been in the most dexterous of stagings. At the same time, we must insist—since we are, after all, in such heavy-duty cultural territory—that the film goes about its business with a grace and assurance that seems cheeky only in seeming so effortless, so spontaneous, so … Mozartean?

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Film Review: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

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Some filmmakers become genres unto themselves. A “Wes Anderson movie” very quickly came to mean something specific, regardless of its definition as coming-of-age picture (Rushmore), Salingeresque family comedy (The Royal Tenenbaums), or animated kiddie fare (Fantastic Mr. Fox). If you’ve absorbed the storybook Anderson style, you won’t find too many surprises in The Grand Budapest Hotel, his eighth feature. But you will find a disciplined silliness—and even an occasional narrative shock—that vaults this movie beyond the overdeveloped whimsy that has affected Anderson’s work since The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

By the time of its 1968 framing story, the Grand Budapest Hotel has been robbed of its gingerbread design by a Soviet (or some similarly aesthetically challenged) occupier—the first of the film’s many comments on the importance of style.

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