Amadeus: Director's Cut (2001)
2.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced)
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Warner Home Video, $26.99

Although this new edition of the Best Picture Oscar winner Amadeus is a splendor to see and hear, releasing a "Director’s Cut" of what is rightly heralded as a cinematic triumph of sound, story and picture almost seems to be an instance of adding "too many notes." Released in several major cities last year, Amadeus: Director’s Cut boasts more than 20 minutes of footage that was originally cut from the film. Though much of the added material fits seamlessly into the film, other "new" scenes do little to add any dramatic weight to the story or further our insight into the characters. (This is most evident during a painfully loud scene in which Mozart, played by Tom Hulce, tries to take on a pupil amid a room full of howling dogs.)

One worthy addition is a telling and dramatic scene in which Mozart’s wife, Constanza (Elizabeth Berridge), pays an uncomfortable visit to court composer Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), with the understanding that she will sleep with him in order to get him to help her struggling husband. After she begins to disrobe at Salieri’s insistence, the vindictive composer spurns her. This sequence does much to illuminate Constanza’s animosity toward Salieri later in the film, when she discovers him in her home with her near-dead husband.

Shorter pieces of additional footage do aid the film’s overall narrative flow. For example, after Salieri confesses to entertaining the thought of violence against Mozart, a new scene shows Salieri praying, "Please, Lord, send him away to Salzburg!" The DVD then cuts to a scene that was in the original film, in which the Archbishop of Salzburg says, "No! I won’t have him back!" By reinstating Salieri’s pleading supplication to God, it seems that the archbishop is responding to the beleaguered Salieri, adding a touch of irony absent from the original version.

This new transfer of the film is spectacular, faithfully reproducing director of photography Miroslav Ondricek, ASC’s sumptuous anamorphic cinematography. The picture is sharper and a bit less grainy than the film’s original DVD release. Although some very slight edge-enhancement can be seen, the image is virtually artifact-free, which is especially important in the subtle tones of the film’s many candle-lit sequences. The soundtrack has been remastered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0, but unlike the previous DVD, this disc does not offer an isolated music track for Sir Neville Marriner’s grand Mozart performances.

This disc also features some nice goodies, including a commentary by director Milos Forman and playwright Peter Shaffer (on whose play the film is based), as well as a new, 37-minute "making-of" documentary that reveals the effort involved in bringing the film to the screen during the shoot, which took place behind the Iron Curtain in the former nation of Czechoslovakia.

Unfortunately, Warner Home Video has followed in the footsteps of other "Director’s Cut" DVDs by failing to include the original cut of the film. Although seeing expanded content appeals to the "completists" out there, seeing the new cut of a film alongside the original edit can be instructive as well as entertaining. It’s hard to believe that the original cut of Amadeus couldn’t have been squeezed onto this two-disc set somewhere. By excluding it, Warner ensures that the film’s real devotees will have to purchase two separate editions of the film.

 – Christopher Probst

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© 2002 American Society of Cinematographers.