Beautiful, touching, magical and memorable. A story to be treasured.
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How Large Does The World Need To Be?
D. Edward Farrar | Washington, DC | 08/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Legend of 1900" is a movie unlike almost any other I have seen. It takes place entirely on a ship at sea, but the action spans more than 40 years. It is the story of a musical genius who is born, lives out his life, and ultimately dies on board a grand trans-Atlantic liner in the first half of the 20th century. He watches the world pass him by just a few thousand people at a time, has a fabulous piano-duel with none other than Jelly Roll Morton, is sought after by recording companies, and listens to and learns from the music of all the different cultures who are emigrating from the Old World to the New, but he never once leaves the ship. Indeed, the mere thought of setting foot on land is his ultimate nightmare.I remember having a guest over one evening who was seeing it for the very first time. His reaction (after wiping a tear from his eye) was to exclaim "what a wonderful movie! How did anyone even get a film that quirky made?" There is no Hollywood 'formula' to this film. It proceeds without any of the usual conventions: no good guy vs. bad guy struggles, no sex, no violence, and no crude jokes. It is like that really good book that you start reading one night when it is already too late but are unable to put down until you have turned the last page."
A curious yarn
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 10/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE LEGEND OF 1900 has as its protagonist a man named D.B.T.D.L. 1900. The "1900" is indicative of the year he was born and found abandoned on a luxury ocean liner, the "Virginian", after its passengers had disembarked in New York. Let it suffice to say that the other initials stand for the ship's crewman that discovered him, and the brand name on the produce crate in which he was lying.The time frame of this film can be tricky at the beginning unless one pays attention. The "now" is, apparently, after WWII. After pawning his trumpet in an English hockshop, Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince) begs to play it one last time. While doing so, the pawnbroker recognizes the melody as that played on a piano on an old record. He spins it for Max, who identifies the pianist as 1900, whom he met in 1927 when he (Max) signed aboard the Virginian as a band member. In a flashback, he recalls the story of 1900's birth, emphasizing that the man never ever left the liner to set foot on solid land. On being asked where he found the disk, purportedly the master copy of the recording session and the only one in existence, the shop owner says it was hidden in a piano that came off an old hospital ship berthed in the harbor. On going to the dock, Max recognizes the rusting hulk as the Virginian, which is in the process of being loaded with explosives designed to scuttle the vessel. Convinced that 1900 is still aboard and hiding, he insists on a search. Interspersed with this activity are more flashbacks to the 20s and 30s when Max played with 1900 in the ship's main ballroom.THE LEGEND OF 1900 is not a perfect film by any means. The character of The Girl (Melanie Thierry) and her relationship with 1900 are left frustratingly underdeveloped. Sad-faced Tim Roth is wonderful as the enigmatic 1900, who is perhaps too inscrutable. (But, then, legends generally are, or they wouldn't be legends. Remember the old saw, "Familiarity breeds contempt.") Without the monolog by 1900 towards the end when he explains himself to Max, the viewer would be left with precious little of the former to fathom. However, one thing is known for sure - 1900 is a phenomenal musical talent. He can play a melody on the piano, no matter how complex, after having heard it only once. He demonstrates this and more (wow!) during a "dueling pianos" session with Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III), the "inventor" of jazz, who comes aboard for an Atlantic crossing just so he can challenge the famous upstart. And, in perhaps the film's most entrancing scene, 1900 plays the piano in the deserted ballroom while the ship rolls in the ocean swells. 1900 has unlocked the piano's anchor wheels, so the instrument glides serenely back and forth over the dance floor while managing not to hit anything until ... well, you have to see it.Viewed as a tragic figure, the viewer will understand 1900 when he says, "The world has passed me by 2000 people at a time." The film is bittersweet to be sure, but well done. See it if you're looking for something on the slightly eccentric side of ordinary."
A memorable fable for adults, beautifully made
Ludix | Upton, MA United States | 09/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How did this terrific movie slip under the radar?
It's about the nature of art, the power of music, the mystery of friendship and love. Most of all, it's about how our fears prevent us from experiencing the immensity of life.
When was the last time you saw a movie tackle issues like this?
The widescreen production is ravishing to watch. It's rare to see an art house film executed with such first-class grandeur. The acting is also uniformly excellent. And the score is luscious.
If you liked THE PIANO or AMADEUS, prepare to be blown away."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 12/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am always delighted to discover a new Tim Roth film. Like most filmgoers, I first saw this amazing actor flaunting his talent in Quentin Tarentino's "Reservoir Dogs" a decade ago. Obviously, I haven't seen every Tim Roth film, but every one that I have seen him in is usually good. Even if the film itself isn't that great, Roth still shines. Consider his small but critical role in Tarentino's "Pulp Fiction." With barely any screen time he still managed to contribute something special to the scenes he appeared in. The same goes for Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover," which I think was Roth's first film role. He showed up in only a couple of scenes, yet stood out in a stellar cast that included Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren. Another great Roth movie is "Rob Roy," where he plays a depraved protégé of a character played by John Hurt. Again, this actor easily held his ground. All of this blather brings me to "Legend of 1900," a marvelous picture that shows Tim Roth can do the leading man thing just as easily as he can work in a supporting role. I guess I can understand some people not liking Roth, but I don't understand why they don't like this movie. It's a gem.
Most of the film takes place on one of those luxurious ocean liners so popular as a means of transportation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One day, a grunt from the engine room named Danny (Bill Nunn) discovers an abandoned baby in the ship. Not knowing what to do about such a startling find, he decides to keep the little guy and raise him as his own son. With the help of some of his fellow employees, Danny also decides to name the infant 1900 as a tribute to the start of the new century. You would think a young baby on board an ocean liner might draw attention, but Danny keeps 1900 out of sight for years by keeping him in the engine room during work hours and in the sleeping quarters the rest of the time. The ship's crew is so busy dealing with the passengers that they hardly have time to notice one kid wandering around from time to time. But when a young 1900 hears a piano playing in the ship's lounge, he strolls inside for a closer look and ends up playing some tunes for the amazed passengers. When someone notifies the captain, he realizes the profit in having this young prodigy stay on and play the piano for the passengers. After Danny perishes in an accident, 1900 becomes a sort of mascot for the ship as well as its star music attraction. Most importantly, he never leaves the ship.
We learn about the story of 1900 through a series of flashbacks from his best friend and fellow musician Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince). His story positively enthralls the owner of pawnshop to whom Max is attempting to sell his trumpet. For example, when Max first signed up to play with the ship's band, his inability to acquire his sea legs led to long bouts of nausea until 1900 stepped into the picture. He took the trumpet player on a most memorable tour of the lounge--you need to see it to believe it--that miraculously cures his seasickness and turns the two men into fast friends. Max also relates a lengthy story about 1900's duel with legendary musician Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III). The jazz great, amazed and angered to hear that a white musician on this ship plays the piano better than he does, arrives onboard to show this upstart who is the boss. After a lengthy back and forth battle of the ivories, good old Jelly Roll retreats with his tail between his legs. The story never reaches a wider audience because 1900 won't leave the ship and he won't record his music. His failure to do both of these things, even for the girl he falls in love with (played by Melanie Thierry), leads to obscurity and ultimate doom.
I enjoyed this film. Roth does his usual bang up job as the melancholy yet supremely talented piano player 1900. His monologue delivered to Max towards the end of the film, explaining why he could never find it in his heart to leave the ship, is a wonderful piece of acting. Pruitt Taylor Vince was a good choice to play 1900's best friend and sometime confidant, and he also provides some much needed comic relief when the movie turns serious. The best part of the film, however, has to be the music, which should not come as a surprise considering this is a film where music essentially acts as a co-star. None other than the great Ennio Morricone scored "Legend of 1900," and he did his usual fabulous job. The movie, I think, even won Morricone a Golden Globe award. As good as these elements are, I did have one problem with the movie: the CGI effects. The filmmakers often used computers to create the ship, and they also used them to create a whole city when 1900 makes his lone attempt to leave the boat. You know how there are good CGI and bad CGI effects? "Legend of 1900" uses bad CGI. Still, this small difficulty rarely intrudes on the story and does not act as a deterrent to enjoying the film.
I also liked the extras on the DVD if for no other reason than hearing the song Roger Waters composed for the film. Called "Lost Boys Calling," it's always great to hear the former front man for Pink Floyd recording new music. Aside from the music video for this song, the disc offers us a trailer and filmographies. Give this one a shot if you like colorful, introspective European films. "
Magic, Music, and an Ocean Cruiser...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 03/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On a foggy night right after the World War II Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince) enters a secluded music store in Southampton, England, where he intends to sell his trumpet. Before Max leaves the store he plays one final tune on the trumpet which the storekeeper recognizes as he has just found a recording of the same tune. The storekeeper asks if Max knows about the creator behind the touching piece, which Max does. Max begins to tell the story of musical genius Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred (Tim Roth), the man who was born on a the ocean cruiser, Virginian, and never had set foot on land. Legend of 1900 is a warm and wonderful story as it presents several interesting themes under the skillful direction of Tornatore. These themes come to life as 1900 plays the piano, music that he creates instantly as his eyes and imagination wander the world and build new life experiences. However, behind the inviting tale of 1900 there is a dark past that is unveiled as the story is told by Max. The cinematography and music enhance the cinematic experience as it tells the tragedy of 1900 and leaves the audience in silent thought."