In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

On Friday the 8th, Club Indigo will celebrate its 19th birthday – can you believe it? That scrawny little event that quietly sneaked into the Calumet Theatre to offer the allure of a monthly inexpensive TGIF – a buffet followed by a classic film. Skeptics said it wouldn’t last out the year.

It not only lasted, it thrived, proving that many local friends and visitors found what has become an evening of good food and entertainment in a grand historical atmosphere.

To celebrate, Club Indigo arranged for a very special movie for the occasion, one that took 8 Academy Awards in 1984 and with its director’s cut is still racking up records today.

“Amadeus” is legendary; it has been called “arguably the best motion picture ever made about the process of creation,” with more praises from critics and filmgoers alike. It began as a stage play, the production of Britain’s greatest stage director, Peter Shaffer. After tremendous success on Broadway, and with the blending of Czech film-maker Milos Forman with Shaffer’s script, the movie then skyrocketed with astonishing success, not only with critics, but also among the general public. Even its most severe critics – who feared general audiences would be turned off by what they felt would be a ho-hum story about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – had to swallow their words; the film was the top-selling movie for the year as it ran off with all those Oscars a “big movie” for decades.

For the colorful setting of the film, Forman took the cast and crew to his original Czech homeland, similar to old Austria for it locale, rich with exotic atmosphere – backgrounds of once royal luster, in and out of magnificent buildings and theaters, and cobble-stoned streets winding through old European vistas all peopled by characters in sumptuous costumes of the times.

Three things dominated the richness of the story: first, a focus on the final 10 years of Mozart’s talented but sometimes distasteful antics during his rise to fame. Second, the narrated observations of his rival, Salieri, who jealously recognized Mozart’s superb talent and both admired and feared it as vastly superior to his own. And, third, there is the music that dramatic (and sometimes bawdy) music which flowed from the genius with seeming ease carefully selected by the film makers to suffuse and clarify each scene.

The film covers Mozart’s years in Vienna from 1781 to 1791, revealing his triumphs and failures (as viewed by Salieri, the Court Composer to Emperor Joseph II) exposing Mozart as a childish rogue who chases women, drinks heartily, and has little or no respect for the manners or morality of royal society the opposite of his adversary, who conducts himself respectfully under the royal eye as he plots to destroy his rival one way or another.

The movie begins in the 1820s, with an aging Salieri’s confession to a young priest as he looks back upon his tortured feelings toward the brash genius he both admired and feared. From there, in flashback, it is Salieri’s narrative that carries the plot to a powerfully dramatic conclusion backed by Mozart’s haunting Requiem.

The title role is performed by an actor from Plymouth, Michigan Tom Hulce in colored wigs, frightfully ostentatious clothing, and shrill laugh who was nominated and nearly won the Oscar for Best Actor, (lost to F. Murray Abraham as Selieri – for his brilliant portrayal of a tragic figure burdened by guilt, jealousy, and the belief that God has abandoned him).

Enough good cannot be said about this epic film. Never for a moment does it seem like a filmed play; it looks wonderfully immediate even to fascinating cuttings from Mozart’s most recognizable operatic works, from the tragic “Don Giovanni” to the fantasy “Magic Flute” and the licentious “Abduction from the Seraglio,” making you want to see and hear more.

The movie begins at 7:15 p.m., preceded at 6pm by a buffet of Austrian and Italian delicacies from chefs at Hancock’s Keweenaw Coop. Cost for both film and buffet, $19. Film alone, $5. There is a special discount for children 10 and under. To order tickets for the buffet, call the theatre at least a day in advance: 337-2610.

Sponsoring “Amadeus” is Aspirus Hospital, Laurium.

Rotten Tomato averages: “Parker,” C-; “Hansel & Gretel,” D; “Movie 43,” F