Though I’ll be immediately branded a Philistine (not for the first or probably last time), I have to admit that Mozart is far from my favorite composer, and I suspect that it would take someone keener on his music than I am to get the good out of this 1955 Austrian biopic that was rechristened The Life and Loves of Mozart for U.S. consumption. As history, it’s pretty specious — no better than any Hollywood composer biopic of the 1940s. As drama, it’s less fun than most of those confections, even if easily as corny. But it’s a solid, good-looking (if not very visually inspired) film, and a young Oskar Werner (who sometimes bears a distressing resemblance to Liberace) makes for a much less grating Mozart than Tom Hulce did in Amadeus (1984).
The film was obviously a labor of love for director Karl Hartl — it was his second Mozart biopic (the first one was supposedly suggested to him by Joseph Goebbels). One wonders at the apparent desire to turn the composer into a kind of cottage industry, especially since the results don’t evidence a particular feeling for the music. Admirers of Mozart’s music will doubtless find the film more appealing.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke