The responses to my faux self-deprecatory celebration of my three millionth page view move me to make some comments about the movie Susie and I saw last Saturday in a free screening here at Carolina Meadows [complete with free popcorn], viz Amadeus. I had seen the movie before, of course, and loved it, but this time around it had an unusually powerful effect on me. Indeed, I choked up at several points. In this comment, I am simply going to assume you have all seen it. [Susie and I also saw Black Panther this past weekend, but that is another story entirely.]
It goes without saying that I identified with Salieri. Mozart is presented in the movie as a sport of nature, a miracle, an alien creature. It is impossible to identify with him. But Salieri, especially as portrayed by F, Murray Abraham in a deservedly Oscar winning performance, is human, all too human.
The movie works precisely because Salieri is not really a mediocrity, the closing scene to the contrary notwithstanding. He is a genuinely accomplished composer, cursed with the ability fully to recognize and appreciate Mozart’s incomprehensible genius. He is, after all, quite capable of looking at a score and hearing the music in all its beauty. And it is those moments in the film that made me weep. The scene, for example, in which he looks at the original Mozart scores Constanza brings to him in an attempt to get him to lobby for a teaching gig that the profligate spendthrift Mozart needs. Salieri genuinely loves music, and although his operas are merely competent workmanlike scores, he is ravished by the beauty he sees on Mozart’s pages and hears in his mind. That is how I feel when I look beneath the surface of the Critique to the beautiful argument hidden within the text. It is how I felt yesterday as I tried to show the people gathered in the room and those who will view the video the beauty of Marx’s insight into the mystifications of the capitalist marketplace.
As I have frequently remarked, despite being a political thinker with beliefs to advance and criticisms to offer, my real pleasure comes from taking a difficult idea, making it clear to myself until it is transparent as Jack and the Beanstalk, and then showing it to a class or a reader so that others can see its beauty as I do.
Oh, the popcorn was good too.