"Roth isn't good enough to keep this ship afloat."
Journalist (to his guest): Do you know Tim Roth?
Guest: Uh...I've heard the name before... (struggling)... uh... Journalist (helping): PULP FICTION... ROB ROY... ?
Guest: Oh, Okay. He's in this?
Surprisingly yes. Tim Roth, who like many theatrical 'artists', balances mainstream with arthouse allowing himself to make a mark for himself as an actor while paying the bills at the same time. THE LEGEND OF 1900 is his latest 'arthouse' project. Only LEGEND is less artistic and more manufactured pretentiousness.Director Giuseppe Tornatore (Academy-award winning CINEMA PARADISO), who also wrote LEGEND based on a dramatic monologue by Italian novelist Alessandro Barico, over-dramatizes a story of a man who's lived his entire life on a ship - The Victorian.
Little Nineteen Hundred (named after the year he was born) is orphaned on a ship and raised there by a ship worker who dies abruptly before little Nineteen turns 10. Supposedly Nineteen goes into hiding for fear of being thrown off the ship and straight into an orphanage, though we see Nineteen running around the ship and even giving a pianist solo to a large group of ship passengers. All grown up and now in the body of Roth, Nineteen makes a life-long friend (Pruitt Taylor Vince - twitchy eyed and very distracted) out of a drifter who plays one hell of a triumphant and in doing so becomes part of the ship's orchestra which highlights Nineteen.
And that's pretty much it. Always keeping his characters distant and withdrawn Tornatore drags LEGEND's limber feet for over two hours in dull-drone blandness helped along only by the beautiful and triumphant score of Ennio Morricone. Tornatore mistakes intrigue and excitement with complacent drama. A presumed spotlight of LEGEND is a piano contest between the 'founder' of jazz (Clarence Williams III) and Nineteen. Roth, more smooth and subtle than before plays it cool through the competition. But instead of letting the scene play itself out Tornatore chooses to dizzyingly overemphasize every move each of them make. And in turn slowing down the progression of the event and inevitably crushing any momentum or intrigue the moment may have carried with it.Always an accountable actor, Roth is compelling to watch but not for the mastery of words he's about to utter from THE LEGEND OF 1900 script but rather to see what will he do with such a lack of material and character. He does his best but that's not good enough to keep this ship afloat. - Pamela Harland - iF Magazine - http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com