Movie Information

Genre: Musical Biopic
Director: Karl Hartl
Starring: Oskar Werner, Johanna Matz, Erich Kunz, Gertrud Kuckelmann
Rated: NR

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

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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