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Peter Shaffer's shrewdly orchestrated cultural evening (1984, 158 min.)—it binds up introductory lessons in music appreciation, Freudian psychology, and fanciful history with a pulp thriller plot—gets a steady, dignified, moderately dull treatment from Milos Forman. It's by no means a bad movie, yet it could have been directed by any one of 20 anonymous hacks—the author of Loves of a Blonde seems irretrievably lost. I appreciate Forman's intentions in casting the film against expectations—with average American faces and voices rather than the Britishers who usually inhabit this kind of project—yet Shaffer's highfalutin theatricality seems even more strained emerging from these modest, faintly parodistic figures. With F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, and Elizabeth Berridge.

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