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Image Entertainment presents
Not Mozart (1991)

Professor Schädel: Here is Amadeus' head. He died of a head cold.
Expert: He died of a dagger wound to the head! Here is the hole!

- Peter Gruber, Thomas Pluch

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 25, 2003

Stars: H.K. Gruber, Peter Gruber, Astrid Seriese, Ute Lemper, Julian Glover, Tony Rohr, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Hall, Gwion Thomas, Frances Lynch, Jo McNally
Other Stars: Dieter Moor, Lauren Newton, Ben Craft, Kate Gowan, Karin Potisk, David Thomas, Michael Nyman, Vienna Art Orchestra, Gerard Thoolen, Adrian Brine, James Meek
Director: Peter Greenaway, Barrie Gavin, Jeremy Newson, Pat Gavin, Ernst Grandits, Anthony Garner, Margaret Williams

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, aggressively hideous modern jazz)
Run Time: 02h:58m:15s
Release Date: May 27, 2003
UPC: 014381932423
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

To commemmorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the BBC and Dutch television commissioned six contemporary composers to collaborate with filmmakers of their choice to produce a tribute to the great composer. The results are mixed, to put it charitably, running the gamut from moderately amusing to utterly grotesque to blinking well baffling.

The six half-hour episodes play continuously, beginning with noted director Peter Greenaway's collaboration with Louis Andriessen, M is for Man, Music and Mozart. There's plenty of nudity, bodily parts, and bodily functions in prime Greenaway style, but the point gets pretty well lost amidst the shrieking by singer Astrid Seriese, as does any relationship to Mozart. But it is certainly interesting visually, if nothing else. The best segment is the darkly comic second program, Bring Me the Head of Amadeus, directed by Barrie Gavin. Featuring composer H.K. Gruber performing in multiple parts, this short concerns the misadventures of Mozart's skull (voiced by Lauren Newton) as it pleads with a messenger (Dieter Moor) to help it escape from the clutches of the pompous Professor Schädel (Peter Gruber). There's plenty of ribaldry here, and an appearance by the Mozartistan Polka Band, which is exactly as amusing as it sounds.

Letters, Riddles and Writs, composed by Michael Nyman and directed by Jeremy Newson and Pat Gavin, takes a look at Mozart's place in musical history, as voiced by busts of Beethoven (Tony Rohr) and Joseph Haydn (Julian Glover). Wolfgang's troubles with his father Leopold (David Thomas) are immortalized in song using words from their own letters to devastating effect. For unknown reasons Wolfgang Mozart is portrayed by Kurt Weill chanteuse Ute Lemper, but she does capture the frailty of Mozart's physical being well as he faces his last hours and questions his work and his worth. A close second in quality among the six shorts here.

By far the worst program here is N*t M*zart: A Jazz Fantasy on Mozart Themes, a frankly hideous accumulation of noises that makes a monstrous hash of Mozart's work. Seldom have I ever heard 'music' more ugly and hateful than that here, which seems determined to blame Mozart for all the ills of the 20th century. The visuals are primarily of the villians producing this racket, the Vienna Art Orchestra, though there is also a cryptic subplot featuring a little Japanese girl (Sayaka Akayama) and the little Mozart candies churned out in Vienna. Tedious and frankly unwatchable (other than a briefly cute Frank Zappa joke), most viewers will want to keep their fingers on the 'skip' button of the remote control. WAM! Limited is not much better, though it starts with a promising concept of Mozart (Timothy Spall) being transplated into 1991 as a computer company tycoon, with a gaping hole remaining in Western music where Mozart once dwelt. Modern Wolfgang has an odd affection for wigs and fascination with sound that he can't quite explain, but these notions don't go anywhere and the result just ends up frustrating. It doesn't help that the score by Misha Mengelberg is nearly as nasty as that by Mathias Ruegg for N*t M*zart, but at least the visuals and ideas here spark a tidbit of viewer interest.

At least the collection winds up with a more positive note, as Scipio's Dream, "recomposed by Judith Weir" and directed by Margaret Williams, takes Scipio into 1991 as an office worker, as Fortune and Constancy battle for his affections. Things take a confusing turn as a trip to heaven ends up in a health club with plenty of sweating bodies working out, but at least the music keeps a good bit of Mozartean character here.

Despite some positives, in the long run most of the music here is unlistenable and most of the films openly contemptuous of Mozart and his music. In short, the disc can only be recommended for Peter Greenaway completists or utter masochists who dream of being tormented by the musical equivalents of dentists' tools.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture appears to be taken from a videotape source; not only does it betray typical video softness but there's a bit of a tape roll in Scipio's Dream. Color is adequate for the most part though of course detail is lacking. There's plenty of video noise, with artifacting and aliasing present, though they're more frequent in some segments than others, so some parts may have originally been shot on film rather than video.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 surround English track (which occasionally switches into German in some shorts) sounds adequate, despite a mild hiss and some slight background noise. The singing is occasionally a bit shrill, and certain Foley effects have a brittle sound to them that's unpleasant. The music has decent presence and good range, with substantial bass (though nothing earth-shaking).

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:28m:53s

Extras Review: There are no extras here, which is a pity. I'd like to see some of the perpetrators of these programs explain what they thought they were trying to communicate. Chaptering is extraordinarily poor, with one stop per half-hour program, though on the plus side this permits one to directly skip over N*t M*zart with a single click of the remote.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

While the keepcase refers to this as a "highly original celebration of the work of Mozart" a better description would be "as much petty viciousness and dissonance as can be imagined, trading upon the more saleable name of Mozart." Most definitely not Mozart, and anyone who even likes the man or his music is well advised to stay far, far away.


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