the documentary AMERICAN VALHALLA (EAGLE ROCK, 2017) takes its name from a song off of IGGY POP's late-career album POST POP DEPRESSION (LOMA VISTA, 2016), which was a collaboration between the iconic STOOGES frontman and musician JOSH HOMME of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE/KYUSS fame. this documentary follows their collaboration throughout the songwriting and recording process with interviews of both conducted by ANTHONY BOURDAIN (RIP).
i guess it should be stated that while IGGY and HOMME come from celebrated bands, both are actually quite unconventional musicians. lots of bands pay lip service to expanding their sound on subsequent releases, but if you track the career trajectory of both you will see that is actually the case. when IGGY reached out to HOMME, both took it as an opportunity to experiment and see what new creations could be manifested from their respective provided elements. it was interesting that in navigating this new relationship they based much on instinct and cooked the songs quickly in short order to not overthink it. just move forward.
i think this film at its core is about the nature of collaboration, especially when you have a history or legacy. it is about dismantling those expectations, both external and, more importantly, internal.
i remember when i was teaching i never slept particularly well because i was constantly questioning my plans. its not that they were inferior, i knew they were sound, but the opportunity cost of it all drove me nuts. there were so many options and how could i choose the right course of action that would best serve my students. i think that drive in part is what broke my heart about the profession, the fact that so many of my peers phoned it in. taught the same thing in the same order as years before, altering nothing. i saw the classroom as a dynamic venue for exploring ideas and challenging them against new technologies and world events. opening up the curriculum to show how these classroom concepts affect our understanding of both the world and ourselves. the fact that i did this in foreign countries, never on my home court made it that much more invigorating and scary at the same time. more colors to play with. i was willing to fail and being unable to settle down completely at night was the price i was willing to pay. risk nothing you get nothing.
what i am trying to say is that im well aware of this fear HOMME had in the film. how do i collaborate with an icon? make it worth his time and my time? and most frightening of all: the opportunity cost of all the other possible music i could write, that i could present to him. how do you conquer that fear?
you just do it by doing it. being truly in the moment. their collaboration was all instinct, mutually respecting and sharing that creative moment. in the moment. right now.
i loved that tightrope dance. i miss it.
note: but i wouldnt return to teaching. dealing with administrations that didn't have the students interests at front of mind cut my heart out. repeatedly. a bad one-sided collaboration rooted in politics.
great film. intriguing documentary on the nature of collaboration and cost required to make it a fruitful and meaningful endeavor.
i first became aware of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (20TH CENTURY FOX, 1975) film sophomore year of prep school in MASSACHUSETTS. i remember trying to watch the movie when all of these kids in my dorm would keep talking over it and doing dance moves and acting out a whole independent narrative. i quickly realized what my peers were doing was insanely intricate and it dawned on me that this was the point of the film. later i realized that this was rooted 4th wall break was rooted in the original play, where audience participation was encouraged, but watching this all unfold did blow my mind at the time.
i can't think of another example of a film that thrives on this kind of behavior. closest i can think of is watching a film at theatre in NYC, where people will yell stuff like "BITCH DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR" at the perfect opportune time. yes, that does take you out of the scene, but in my opinion such enriches the movie going experience. its like getting free commentary from an unreliable narrator.
i think part of the reason the interactive nature of the film works so well is that fact that it is a MUSICAL. an unconventional one at that which utilized ROCK MUSIC, something of a novelty at the time, but it does play to the genre expectations. in AMERICAN MUSICALS, when a character or a group sing a song you are transported temporarily to a world that is outside the realm of the narrative. what you witness is a projection of a character's mood and aspirations on the scenery around them. its a trick that is unique to this genre and is partly why i have gravitated to such over the years. some of my favorite films are musicals such as CABARET and THE BANDWAGON, and they all play to this convention.
in a sense THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is a series of these projected fantasies intercut with brief scenes of dialogue to tie them together. the point of the film, in my opinion, is this idea of transcendence. transcendence of gender, sexuality, space, time, etc. not to overdue this concept but through genre conventions of the MUSICAL, these characters have transcended their own individual identity. and to me that describes the transformative quality of ROCK AND ROLL when done correctly. that rejuvenating, transcendent power of collective unity in music.
the fact that as an audience, we too are involved with this dissolution of the basic relationship between voyeur and participant that defines the movie going experience also makes sense. i can only imagine at the time what a revelation this film was. it still is.
i could go on, but this is a must-watch film, especially with participants. also, TIM CURRY is a god.
arguably the greatest buddy comedy of all-time, CHEECH & CHONG's UP IN SMOKE (PARAMOUNT, 1978) is a classic film that draws on the systematic oppression of hispanics by the AMERICAN political class and police apparatus and the rejuvenating power of ROCK AND ROLL and counterculture lifestyle as the spring from where its humor is rooted.
that and marijuana.
its almost as if the cultural exchange that occurs as a result of immigration is part of what makes the fabric of american society so compelling and rich. its our strength and what truly makes us "exceptional" to borrow a phrase from my lug-headed compatriots on the right. culture is what unites us. the flow of ideas and information and the constant reaffirmation of core principles and beliefs over generations and geography.
my favorite part of this film is when CHEECH needed to attend a wedding in TIJUANA, so he called INS and got a free ride. him and all his cousins are dressed up in suits ready to party. what a great scene.
being originally from southern CALIFORNIA, it was part of my social studies classes in elementary school the level to which our culture and history was intimately intertwined with our neighbors to the south. that is why i never understood the hardliners i was surrounded by growing up who demonized hispanics yet paid them to do unskilled labor off the books. its beyond hypocritical. i was there when former governor PETE WILSON promoted PROPOSITION 187, which sought to deny education to the sons and daughters of unregistered foreign aliens. out of all my friends' parents, only one was against it. just them and my parents. all my teachers spoke in favor of it.
probably the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was getting me the hell out of ORANGE COUNTY and exposing me to the world they seemed so bent on shutting out. when i watch UP IN SMOKE, i am just reminded of the fear of these WHITE SUBURBAN SOCCER MOMS, those being that these blazed-up hispanics and their seductive music and alternative beliefs will seduce and ultimately corrupt their daughters.
so yeah, huge fan. and i don't even smoke. honest.
seriously, who doesn't love PAM GRIER?
in my opinion the BLAXPLOITATION films she starred during the 1970s (FOXY BROWN, SHEBA BABY) showcase the real american nightmare, empowered sexually liberated minority women who take charge and buck the power structures that hold their community back, structural racism and drug lords be damned.
my favorite of these films is director JACK HILL's genre-defining masterwork COFFY (AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL, 1973), which carries an almost LADY SNOWBLOOD-esque revenge plot as GRIER's protagonist seeks to kill a drug kingpin for allowing heroin to ruin her neighborhood and kill her younger sister. she does this by going deep undercover as a working girl and establishing relationships with all the inside players before making her move. GRIER is a tour-de-force whose character displays an emotional trajectory that allows the audience to understand her pain and how such governs her means of devouring her competitors through seduction. like a righteous femme fatale only in a very different political, cultural and racial context.
i find this film endlessly fascinating for its scope at addressing a contemporary societal ill when such was ignored or demonized in the wider WHITE media and political classes. i think QUENTIN TARANTINO must have felt similarly when he cast GRIER in JACKIE BROWN (MIRAMAX, 1997) over 20 years later in an update of her character of sorts. again, GRIER hasn't missed a step, only this time its corruption on a higher political level.
COFFY is worth your time. it is absolutely required viewing for anyone interested in cinema, period.
what's funny about ZOOLANDER (PARAMOUNT, 2001)is the fact that it is one of these cult films that initially bombed at the box office but totally destroyed when it came out on DVD and was put in movie rental chains (remember those?!) like BLOCKBUSTER and HOLLYWOOD VIDEO. other films i'd put in this category include OFFICE SPACE, THE BIG LEBOWSKI and A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY.
what makes ZOOLANDER such a fun movie is the piss it takes out of a pre-TMZ, 24-7 on-demand digital CELEBRITY culture and the high fashion/glamour industries. the very premise that a new "look" by model DEREK ZOOLANDER would set the world ablaze is so preposterous and self-absorbed that it is the perfect foil that director/actor BEN STILLER take for all its worth.
i think imbedded in this film is a NAOMI KLEIN-esque critique of BRAND CULTURE and the idea that the logo of your garment somehow belies some deep aspect of your personality is a inherently hollow, narcissistic and just absurd. yet our consumer culture and the marketing that underpins it relies on such. i think its easy to laugh at DEREK ZOOLANDER but the real joke is on me every time i purchase anything from NIKE or LEVI'S despite their labor practices abroad and lack of real support for AMERICAN manufacturing capacities.
ZOOLANDER is the kind of film i regularly return to throughout the years because its message is only more intense given the age we live in now with its even more corrosive form of micro-targeting and digital marketing where our choices are even more thoroughly analyzed and manipulated. DEREK ZOOLANDER to me is the patron saint of our current predicament where fast fashion chains, shoe culture and equally vacuous figureheads (cough, cough, THE KARDASHIANS) influence our collective self-image.
and how depressing is that? ZOOLANDER is a must-watch. the sequel not so much.
what was originally intended as behind-the-scenes footage to be utilized as extra content for their upcoming release transitioned into a seminal documentary about the dissolution of a band in real-time, something that has not been documented before or since to my knowledge.
controversial at the time of its release among METAL fans, the documentary SOME KIND OF MONSTER (THIRD EYE, 2004) by directors JOE BERLINGER and BRUCE SINOFSKY (BROTHER's KEEPER, PARADISE LOST trilogy) has proven in retrospect to be arguably their highest achievement (other than those perfect string of legendary CLIFF BURTON albums in the 1980s). i say this because there is a lot of posturing and machismo bullshit in METAL. it is by far the aspect of the genre i dislike the most and for years METALLICA were the pied pipers of this toxic brand of masculinity. that was until their second bassist JASON NEWSTED departed in order to claim the freedom of pursuing other projects. this was the first domino in a series of internal debate and reconsiderations that led to group therapy and lead singer/rhythm guitarist JAMES HETFIELD's admittance into rehab for alcoholism.
again, given their history with these issues it was a brave move. original lead guitarist DAVE MUSTAINE of MEGADETH fame was booted out for his behavior when intoxicated. he wasn't afforded a second opportunity. to interview him and put all the cards on the table in such a public manner really altered the culture in my opinion. none more so than the issue of therapy.
METALLICA was mocked extensively for going in to group therapy as such was perceived (moronically) as being weak, passive and not metal. if anything this was a power move that took incredible courage. i look back now at a seminal band like PANTERA who had internal struggles that were never dealt with out of a sense of toxic masculinity and they broke up out of spite with one another. they battled each other in the press and ultimately cowered to their corners with their respective enablers and hangers-on, never addressing anything in person, man-to-man. in my mind stepping up and speaking your truth and probably more importantly, the act of listening would have been more METAL. but what do i know?
i feel as our culture becomes ever more coarse and driven by wedge issues that seek to divide us, here is an example of a group of men looking each other in the eye dealing with their internal issues directly with begrudging respect. taking control of their behavior. being adults. thats what this film represents to me.
too bad the album ST. ANGER sucked.
so when OFFICE SPACE (TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, 1999) came out i was in boarding school. it was my sophomore year and the way things went was that my dorm head would go off-campus on friday and rent a movie or two for the students that would sit in the lounge area on the first floor. if it was particularly good than more often than not students would watch it again on saturday and drag others who hadnt seen it to do so.
i distinctly remember OFFICE SPACE because we had that movie rented out for something like 2 weeks. it got to ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW proportions in that people were reciting lines and whole scenes of dialogue before the first weekend was out. it was the biggest hit of my two year stint in prep school.
i feel part of what makes that film so endearing and funny is how much suffering and pain showcased through the characters. they all seem to aspire for greatness yet live in the mundane corporate labyrinth of TPS reports, multiple bosses and malfunctioning xerox machines and printers.
the characters of this film are just such exquisite vignettes of the rich diversity of human suffering and existential dread. this seems to be a specialty of writer/director MIKE JUDGE who famously gave the world BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD and KING OF THE HILL. from the worthless human garbage who feed off power like clueless boss BILL LUMBERGH and corporate executive goons "THE BOBS," to loveable ambitious losers like TOM SMYKOWSKI, MICHAEL BOLTON and SAMIR NAGHEENANAJAR and the various supplicants and reptiles that make up the backstabbing groupthink culture portrayed in OFFICE SPACE, this movie portrays the corporate workplace as a war-zone. i literally could go on at length about any of these characters, even the main protagonists, but to me there is one that sticks out among all others: MILTON ADDAMS.
in my mind, we are all MILTON. we are all hopeless, inept, misplaced rejects looking for a home. in essence we are all victims. even the "THE BOBS" and LUMBERGH himself are victims to a corporate structure that deprives them all of their creativity and humanity. it sucks them all in and gives back nothing. no security, no enjoyment, no satisfaction. they are literally all rats in a cage clawing each other in a never-ending fratricidal fever dream.
i always found it funny that the only character to actually effectuate change in the plot is the most isolated, socially-deprived, mistreated misfit of them all. maybe there is hope for all of us.
in my opinion, THE WILD ONE (STANLEY KRAMER PICTURES, 1953) is one of the most consequential films of all time. even up there with CITIZEN KANE (RKO, 1941) in terms of influence.
in many respects this is a result of its content rather than its construction (as was the case with ORSON WELLES' opus still being held in high esteem). the film basically introduced the AMERICAN public to teenage rebellion. in the post-WWII period the economic pursestrings controlled by young adults was sizable for the first time in modern history and HOLLYWOOD took notice. later films like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (WARNER BROS, 1955) take their cue from THE WILD ONE, which deals with a clash of two motorcycle gangs in a small town. in many ways it is almost like a WESTERN in its construction, here bikes and leather jackets taking hte place of steeds and leather chaps.
there is also the immortal MARLON BRANDO line "What have you got?" to the question "What are you rebelling against" that is one of the great lines in all of cinema. for me this film is the ground zero of modern youth culture. you can even start with the fact that there is the well-known myth that THE BEATLES got their name from the rival biker gang in the film (a reference to the BEAT WRITERS and BEAT GENERATION). for the record the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB is named after the corresponding BRANDO bike gang in the film.
at some point the legend of the film is divorced from the actual film itself which was low budget with minimal set locations. by standards of the time it is a pretty bare bones production. but where it succeeded it did so brilliantly in exploiting a burgeoning teenage market that was as-of-yet untapped with characters that questioned authority and went against the status quo, creating their own community of like-minded riders that lived by their own code. again, this is straight out of the WESTERN playbook, but being transmogrified in this new context was brilliant. to this day motorcycles, leather jackets and the paraphernalia of the imagery from this film represents rebellion, independence and freedom in AMERICAN popular culture.
the fact that there is no focus to their defiance is a core issue that gets explored to great effect in the aforementioned NICHOLAS RAY film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE starring JAMES DEAN, but i will leave that to another review.
THE WILD ONE is definitely worth watching if you are a fan of film history or the evolution of AMERICAN popular culture through the generations.
photo by nacrowe
ever since i saw GREGG ARAKI's stridently apocalyptic THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) film in high school i was a fan of ROSE MCGOWAN. she really seemed to exude an inner confidence that manifested in her physical being. and really that was read on her throughout her early career. that she was this impossibly beautiful, no bullshit force of nature.
in her recent memoir BRAVE (HARPERCOLLINS, 2018) that was released in the aftermath of the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements that had a long overdue cascading effect on the male-dominated AMERICAN entertainment industry, MCGOWAN eviscerates any notion that HOLLYWOOD is not a cult that we are all subservient to in one fashion or another. and she should know, being raised as a member of CHILDREN OF GOD as a child in ITALY, escaping and then living broke on the streets with no security system until being plucked out of obscurity by a production assistant.
for me, her life details were only interesting in that they empowered her overriding thesis that any system (whether they be political, religious, regional or even personal in nature) which demeans our individual sense of identity and self-worth is inherently destructive and should be eradicated. in her case, this focus of her ire is the entertainment industry and the networks of supplicants that allow power-brokers to go on unchecked in sexually assaulting young women as had been done to her by (now newly convicted) HARVEY WEINSTEIN of MIRAMAX/THE WEINSTEN COMPANY notoriety. it wasn't just that she was raped by an influential producer of OSCAR-nominated films who subsequently black-listed her, it was also the fact that other managers, co-stars, agents, producers, directors, etc. knew about her situation (as well as other similar victims) and did nothing in fear of upsetting the apple cart. some, like former partner and director ROBERT RODRIGUEZ even had her reenact her trauma in his PLANET TERROR (DIMENSION, 2007) film.
i share her disdain for an industry that routinely cannibalizes itself. i also greatly admire her sense of courage in relating her story, even as such no doubt will expose her to professional retribution in loss roles. but i doubt she cares about that anymore. she is on a new powerful path of advocacy for the exploited. perhaps my initial reading on her was correct.
one of the really prescient observations MCGOWAN makes in the book is how as consumers of the media, we are all susceptible to its messaging. all of us. whether we consciously reject or acquiesce to it matters not at all. as a member of a media-consuming population we are inculcated with belief systems and biases that are deep at root in our ability to self-define who we are as individuals and our role in society. she takes ownership of her role in that "cult" she describes us all being subject to. i respect her for that.
as a young kid, no other DISNEY film scared the shit out of me quite like DUMBO (1941). the whole idea of being estranged from your family by a bunch of evil circus freaks set out on exploiting you and making you do crazy shenanigans against your will was just too much to process back then. even viewing it as an adult i can't believe they got away with showing underage drinking and racist blackface caricatures, wait actually the later part i can believe. this is the same company that put out SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946) and WALT DISNEY himself was quite the walking contradiction himself, on one hand nurturing a reputation for wholesomeness while on the other being one of the lead proponents in HOLLYWOOD of RED SCARE propaganda and MCCARTHYIST misadventures into purifying the entertainment industry, with all of its antiemetic connotations intact. this is the same MISSOURI transplant that took inspiration from JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS's reimagined racist slave narratives and basically white-washed them for commercial consumption. but i digress.
i'm not one of those people that share the criticism of DISNEY films for their routinely used plot trope of breaking up the nuclear family through death, estrangement or otherwise (see BAMBI, CINDERELLA, THE LION KING, FINDING NEMO, etc). i'm fine with that since in the end the films are about seeking connection with the greater community and establishing a surrogate family. its uplifting. but man the existential dread i experienced as a child watching DUMBO get drunk after watching his mom sing goodbye to him still makes me emotional. most depressing scene of all time. easily.
i really hate you WALT DISNEY for making me love this film so much.
i am a total fanboy of DIVINE and JOHN WATERS.
i mean really. if you check out any of their trashy EXPLOITATION filmography from the 1970s, movies like PINK FLAMINGOS (DREAMLAND, 1972) and DESPERATE LIVING (DREAMLAND, 1977) or even more obscure earlier fare like MULTIPLE MANIACS (DREAMLAND, 1970) and MONDO TRASHO (DREAMLAND, 1969) you will not be disappointed.
my favorite out of the bunch is FEMALE TROUBLE (DREAMLAND, 1974) which depicts the life of a BALTIMORE teenager seeking attention throughout her life and ultimately commits murder for the sole motivation of becoming notorious.
for me this film is a bitter take on TABLOID culture in much the same way as BILLY WILDER's ACE IN THE HOLE (PARAMOUNT, 1951) eviscerated yellow journalism a generation before. WATERS saw the future of the AMERICAN SOUL and the lowest common denominator in cultural terms as the concept of infamy being a goal in and of itself predates today's online social media culture where people are famous for being famous and being "on brand." DIVINE is psychotic as all hell in this film and the DREAMLAND cast, as always, keep the film grounded in its debased underbelly like a more deranged and conked-out alternate versions of ANDY WARHOL's superstars.
the look, the acting, the humor and the caustic message about the nature of the media and the vacuous nature of seeking fame in this film is all textbook JOHN WATERS and is why FEMALE TROUBLE has been a touchstone of my movie-viewing habits since my teen years.
this film is required viewing in my opinion.
i revisited the SCI-FI classic LOGAN's RUN (MGM, 1976) the other day and was again intrigued by its depiction of a future dystopia where all inhabitants are genetically modified to maximize pleasure, only to be discarded in public once they turn 30. what hit me about this film was its critique of ritual and the dislodging effects of free love culture.
to mark the end of a class of the population, there was an elaborate sports-like spectacle called "carousel" in an arena where participants where systematically killed off in hopes of being reincarnated. the implications of such a display are obviously barbarous, but the fact that such had been normalized via its status as an embedded ritual in society made it easy to gloss over on behalf of its inhabitants. reminds me in a way of how we choose to perceive pugilistic sports (MMA, NFL, boxing) and war as competitions rather than life-altering experiences that forever change the mental, emotional and physical capacities of its participants.
the other interesting bit about this film is how everyone is supposedly engineered to be equally desirable and sexually available for all takers, male or female. ironically, a world free of sexual prudishness and boundaries has lost the ability to connect. a world free of adults and children is rudderless, guilt-free world with no responsibility. perhaps this was a critique of the free love and commune movements of the late 60s where unconventional living and partnering relationships were experimented with for a time. i dont know how i feel about that one. i have friends from childhood who participated in kibutzim in ISRAEL and others in NIGERIA that had extended families via their father's other wives. they all seemed to be well-adjusted despite having multiple "parents." interesting thought none the less.
last thing i'll say about this film is that the youth-obsessive nature of the narrative made me immediately think of my experiences KOREA and JAPAN, where KAWAII culture has infantilized the population and really devalued people once they moved past puberty. its unhealthy and their suicide rates among teens and depreciating birth rates among adults proves such.
why cant we just value the whole spectrum of human development. where does that come from?
art by nacrowe
who doesnt love EXPLOITATION films?
i for one always appreciated their directness in selling you the base, lowest-common denominator entertainment based on sex, race and other issues deemed to taboo to be touched upon by the prudish gatekeepers of modern culture. RUSS MEYER's landmark FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (RM FILMS, 1965) is an iconic underground film that follows three go-go dancers on a murder and kidnapping spree through the deserts of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
this film has influenced countless films in its wake, most notably those where women use their appearances to switch the tables on gender roles and exploit their oppressors in the process. this plot is still mined to this day as seen most recently in HUSTLERS with JENNIFER LOPEZ and CARDI B, where MANHATTAN strippers exploit their WALL STREET patrons in the wake of the market collapse of 2008. it begs the question of who is exploiting who?
awesome, totally underrated film that everyone should view. can't say that for the rest of MEYER's output.
there is something to be said about that brief transition period at the end of high school when the world is seemingly opening up yet becoming more complex. TERRY ZWIGGOFF's GHOST WORLD (GRANADA FILM, 2001) really nails the feeling of that era completely, and i should know since this film came out right at that very moment for me.
as a senior in high school i found myself in northern CALIFORNIA living with a relative in the aftermath of 9/11 and very much felt that my experience abroad gave me a different perspective than the parochial concerns of white-bread middle AMERICA. i'll admit it, i looked down on SACRAMENTO. in some ways i still do.
the two outcasts played by THORA BIRCH and SCARLET JOHANSSON, based on the DANIEL CLOWES' graphic novel of the same name, are over-educated and underachieving and encounter life with a joking, sarcastic distance that is as much about fear and insecurity as it is about late-teen bravado.
what makes this film click are their encounters with STEVE BUSCEMI's middle-aged character who is a seeming loser in love, career and life in general and whose immeasurable pain gives him a real gravitas that essentially brings BIRCH into his orbit. she is like a vampire feasting on his despair but ultimately that backfires.
there is a FLANNERY O'CONNOR short story i have been attempting to find that has a similar plot in that a man pursues a woman he doesn't find attractive only to fall in love and have her leave him. been looking for a title on that one for a few days now, but can't locate it as of yet. that sort of push and pull is very much at the heart of GHOST WORLD and i would argue all adult relationships.
that conflict between fantasy and reality and coming to terms with life and reality for what it is, not what it should be.
great film. worth checking out definitely.
MILOS FORMAN's masterful film AMADEUS (ORION PICTURES, 1984) follows the life and career of childlike musical prodigy WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART from the envious perspective of his "rival," 18th century VENITIAN composer ANTONIO SALIERI. despite the fact that this rivalry is up for serious dispute by historians, in this film it functions as a useful tool in examining the nature of genius.
when confronted with those whose natural gifts for surpass our own, we often superimpose on these people an aura of power and supremacy. i know i am that way whenever i visit a clinic or step on an airplane. to me physicians and pilots are superhuman, when in reality i know that these are just talented people with lots of training and hard work to hone their respective crafts. but what if they didn't necessarily work for their position. what if it was just innate and furthermore, what if they acted immature about their stature.
to me this is the crux of AMADEUS. MOZART is depicted as a spoiled, lustful, immature, self-absorbed twit who also happens to me a musical prodigy of the first order. in SALIERI we see a composer that used his limited ability and gifts to rise up the ranks via sheer willpower and attention to his craft over years of diligent training and self-examination. he is the embodiment of the puritan ethic and yet he is outshined by this impetuous imp.
anyone entering this film has a cursory knowledge of the work of MOZART and his legacy as a seminal pillar in the western cultural tradition and very likely unfamiliar with a minor historical footnote like SALIERI, yet the film confronts us to have conflicting emotions about the two and who has value.
despite its supposed historical inaccuracies, for me this film is an incredible examination of the nature of genius and the cult of adoration that follows. obviously genius isn't bestowed on those that deserve it, but each time i look past the unfortunate aspects of people that i admire, whether that be MORRISSEY, MILES DAVIS, JAMES BROWN, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR or even CHUCK BERRY, i consider this film and how it illustrates that at the end of the day these are still just people.