The perception of the quality of a high def transfer of a film to the Blu-ray medium is a very subjective thing. It can also be influenced by the viewing method i.e. whether it has been watched on an LCD TV, Plasma, or projected on a home cinema screen - dreaming with your eyes open, as someone once called it. A film transfer can look totally different on each. Then we have the set up of each device. If automatic 'helper' settings have been left switched on, this can cause 'ringing' or even appear to cause excess grain and make the viewer think the transfer has been over sharpened. Other settings can cause the 'waxy' skin tones that people blame on the application of DNR.
So, assuming we have all automatic settings switched off and the display has been accurately calibrated, only then can we make clear subjective statements about the look of the film. But then, you already knew all of this.
Bearing all of the above in mind, 'Amadeus' looks beautiful in its VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer that makes the most of the widescreen 2.40:1 picture frame. It is positively streets ahead of the old DVD release. At last we have sufficient definition to fully appreciate the detailed embroidered patterns on table cloths or on Mozart's ornate waistcoat. Skin tones and facial detail look very good - forget whether you think DNR has been applied or not. The fact is, the end result is very nice to look at. Some shots may look a bit soft, but if some shots look sharp and others not - maybe it's down to 'in camera' use of filters. Hmmm?
Colours are nicely rendered, from the vibrant bright reds of tunics to the delicate pastels of the ladies' gowns or Mozart's wigs. The word is 'lovely'.
Blacks are deep too in the exterior night shots. Some might say that the blacks aren't so good on the interiors. Do you think that might be down to the use of just a tiny waft of smoke in the air to create period atmosphere?
Some shots have the much vaunted 3D 'pop' such as when Salieri is walking among people in a large room, hoping to see Mozart for the first time.
Other shots have an amazing depth, such as when the camera looks through from one room to another via a doorway.
You'll gather that I rather like the way this film looks on Blu-ray, whether viewed on a 50 inch plasma or projected on a 7 foot screen. But that's just my opinion.
The music of Mozart is given the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround treatment that fills your lounge or home cinema with a full orchestra or places you in the best seat in the house at one of his Operas. The full swell of the orchestra can be felt on your chest, but the bass is not so overpowering as to be uncomfortable.
Aside from the music, the dialogue is kept crisp and clean while locked to the centre speaker. Tom Hulce's whinnying giggle is reproduced with great resonance in the Royal meeting room and the clatter of footsteps on wooden floors echo convincingly.
All the same, the real star here is the music of Mozart and Sir Neville Marriner's arrangements are presented with great oomph and clarity. Nice sound all round.
As good on the ears as it is on the eyes.
Although not exactly brimming with extras, 'Amadeus' has some of the more important special features - as follows:
- Audio Commentary
Director Milos Forman and writer Peter Shaffer pull up a couple of chairs to watch the movie and fill us in on some of the background detail to the script and the production. A large amount of what they discuss is also featured in the included documentary, but it's nice to hear it in context with the film running at the same time. The conversation occasionally strays off topic, but it simply underlines the fact that these two guys are human and we get to understand them better as people. As a comm track it's not boring or soporific. There are enough nuggets and gems to fire the enthusiasm of the film buff, but to stick with it for a full 180 minutes is quite a challenge.
- The Making of Amadeus (SD, 61 mins)
This really chunky documentary, although claimed as SD on the box, uses the VC-1 codec and it looks very good. Occasionally you notice picture lines in the rostrum camera work, but it's the subject matter that really counts. There's input from producer Saul Zaentz concerning Shaffer's approach to adapting his play for the cinema and we hear about the trials of casting as every big name in Hollywood wanted to play Mozart. Could you believe Mick Jagger in the role? Interesting but suicidal casting to say the least. The doco covers the problems encountered while filming in Prague where film makers found that most things they needed were in short supply.
The cast and crew have the time to tell us a lot of interesting and amusing anecdotes. A very comprehensive piece of coverage on the production. Well worth a watch.
- Trailer (SD 2 mins 24s)
The trailer is interesting as it gives us the chance to see how the movie was marketed back in 1984, almost as a whodunit, to overcome initial preconceptions and hook in an audience. It also gives us the opportunity to see the difference in technical quality between the advert (framed at 1.85:1 and decidedly soft) and the main feature (pristine by comparison).
The multi-Oscar winning 'Amadeus' comes to region free Blu-ray with a fine looking 1080p VC-1 transfer, framed handsomely at 2.40:1. The generally sharp image is complemented by good contrast, but it's the colour of skin as well as the delicate pastels of clothing and wigs that really please the eye. The Director of Photography's use of natural light is treated respectfully in this transfer.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track truly surrounds us with the orchestra yet ensures that dialogue is clean and crisp throughout.
We're given an interesting audio commentary by the director Milos Forman and writer Peter Shaffer as well as a documentary of substantial length and content.
As for the movie itself - it's a master class in acting, directing, scriptwriting, cinematography..... Take a look for yourself.
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