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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.26%
Average: 15.22%
Pretty Bad: 15.22%
Total Crap: 4.35%

3 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Legend of 1900, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The disclaimer is on its poster: It's a fable."
4 stars

During the beginning of "The Legend of 1900," I kept think how much it played like an old fable, and it was none to my surprise that when I looked at the press kit that it clearly states: "A FABLE BY GIUSEPPE TORNATORE THE LEGEND OF 1900." It is to my disappointment that I announce that this is only the second film by Tornatore that I have seen, the first being in my opinion, the best foreign film I've ever seen, "Cinema Paradiso." You'd think that after having seen that film even years ago and having loved it, that it would have motivated me to search out more of his work. With "1900," it at least gives me the reminder of the other possibilities out there.

With something to the effect of the name Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen-Hundred, Tim Roth takes it all on, and couldn't have been any better. Born and left of the ship, the Virginia, 1900, as he was later named for having been born in that very year on that very ship, was found by Danny (Bill Nunn), an African-American coal room worker. He took the child on as his own until he met his death several years later by accident. 1900 picked up on playing the piano (the film was once entitled "The Legend of the Pianist in the Ocean") and had the ability to create flowing and haunting melodies at the sweep of his fingers; a true ivory tickler you might say.

1900's story is told via flashback and reflection by Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a friend of 1900's of whom he spent many years with on the ship, and played the trumpet along side him in the jazz orchestra.

At first this notion seems a little contrived, been there done that-ish, but like the music, begins to flourish and flow. There's a lot of narration along the way; one might think the story would have been better told straightforward, as it happened, but either way I'm quite content. Max narrates the story in a kind of noir-ish malaise of the old 40s and 50s films, but you get over it. Or maybe not; I could have lived without it but stuck with it hoping for progression, and I got it.

Time and years build up, and 1900 has become a prolific pianist, not to our surprise, but as the current time is at stake we learn too, that our dear old Virginia is about to be blown up with tons of dynamite (sorry kiddies, not any of the homemade dynamite we're so familiar with after a certain "Club" everyone's obsessing about). Pretty much, the rest of the story is just that, Max recounting what it was like to know him, what happened while he knew him, and ideas about why he (1900) never left the ship; not even once.

I dunno if being a fable consistutes some of the coincidences such as Max happening to go into the only music/pawn shop to sell his trumpet that has the old pianos 1900 used to play. Or that it happens that Max plays a tune that was created by 1900 that somehow triggers the old shopkeeper's memory to bring out an old matrix record that is the same tune, and happens to be the only recorded version of any of his work. Take it or leave it. It felt like more of a pleasure to enjoy this film than to overly criticize it. Some skeptics may feel that it's too large of a pill to swallow, and won't go for it, but I found it to be entrancing and throughly delightful.

The music, all by Ennio Morricone, is beautiful. I loved how scenes would just be time after time of 1900 pounding out notes. It reminded me of "Tango" in the sense that you were watching it more for its dancing and cheorography than its storytelling; "The Legend of 1900" was interesting mostly for its musical capabilities.

Fine Line will hopefully give a little extra shove or nudge to push the performance of Tim Roth for Best Actor; I certainly wouldn't mind him along the likes of Richard Farnsworth and Kevin Spacey. He takes a modest take on a role of which is hard not to like. Who doesn't want to champion 1900 along as he out jazzes Jelly Roll Morton (an excellent Clarence Williams III). One of the singly funniest scenes in recent cinema included at show down, and the use of cigarettes. It caught me quite by surprise and kept me snickering until several scenes thereafter.

Pruitt Taylor Vince was also very good, starring at you with his astigmatic eyes which so effacaciously graced us in "Heavy." Maybe a little over used as far as certain emphasis goes, his humane presence had a more positive influence on the film. Billed as only The Girl, Melanie Theirry was a beauty to stare at, but I knew from the instance I saw her that she had be a super, or at least a model. (I was right, it was confirmed in her bio in the press kit.) However, I still wish there would have been a little more development between her and 1900.

It's hard for me to compare the only other work of Tornatore's that I've seen with this, so it would be easier not to. I have much more of a keen interest to go back and research his earlier films, and look at the juxtaposition of them againist his award winner ("Cinema Paradiso"), all the way up to his most recent, and first film in English. All in all, I think the attitude of watching a "fable" is what will eventually make up your mind and feelings of this. It kind of seemed sweet, even a little touching to go along with it. Tornatore seems to enjoy making films, and I seem to enjoy watching them.

The cinematography by Lajos Koltai, and the production design by Francesco Frigeri were added bonuses. As opposed to "Titanic," never once did the ship itself look or appear fake, or filmed against a greenscreen. Although both films may have a corny feel to them (example: Roth and Vince slip and spin around sitting at the piano as the ship rocks), one focuses on the story and the characters --"Legend", while "Titanic" uses it's name to only to underscore the ship itself and involve us with a shameless and silly romance between two very fake characters. One uses its possesions, whilst the other uses its front as a shadow for something else wholly less interesting.

Final Verdict: A-

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originally posted: 11/28/99 21:24:32
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User Comments

9/03/10 Mohammad Masterpiece 5 stars
10/22/08 Doubleshot464 The music was wonderful; a nice two hours spent on a cold and rainy fall afternoon. 4 stars
5/11/07 Tommy bozes comment made me laugh my ass off 3 stars
1/02/07 Jessica I LOVED TIM ROTH! GREAT MUSIC and the acting is INCREDIBLE! 5 stars
11/09/06 Jason Creative and gives meaning to a movie! 5 stars
10/25/06 jay one of the best films ever made cinematography-wise! 5 stars
10/15/06 Dimitris It was a good movie, and the piano contest scene was awsome 4 stars
7/03/06 J Breiner I loved it! What a twist to a storyline. 5 stars
2/04/06 jenn Awesome movie!the dwarf and jeane are stupid and would know a good film if it slapped them! 5 stars
1/29/05 Darryl Entertaining film with excellent piano playing! Ending is jacked up though. 4 stars
7/29/04 psychotic black dwarf Humorless, lacks irony, eye-rolling pathos, generally nauseating despite good score. 2 stars
6/22/04 kiel 3ya would like to have a copy of the movie 5 stars
4/06/04 Jeanne What a bloody, irritating mess. I cared NADA. 1 stars
9/11/03 Jonathan West , age 16 One of the best movies I have ever seen , I seen it 10-20 time and it gets better ever time 5 stars
5/24/03 Bloody Vixen Hated the ending, made me cry... 5 stars
3/22/03 R.W. Welch Fanciful yarn of shipboard Mozart has a certain mystique about it. 4 stars
12/25/02 Joe Christensen One of the best films i have seen in a long time,watched it twice in a row 5 stars
10/31/02 jazzy a very impressive movie! 5 stars
8/19/02 Tom Wish there were more scenes of the great piano playing and less of slow moving "drama". 4 stars
1/24/02 iulian solcan simply beautiful 5 stars
11/16/01 Pat DC magic-realistic fable 5 stars
7/30/01 MLS This is one of the most beautiful movies I've seen, now one of my favorites! Wonderful! 5 stars
4/17/01 Jane McArthur Well, I loved it. The music, cinematography and acting were simply wonderful. 5 stars
11/15/00 salvo toscano Quite good, but too "american" for european taste 4 stars
1/19/00 Antony Enjoyed it 4 stars
1/05/00 Charlene Miller My favorite movie of 1999 5 stars
10/29/99 Bozo The longest two hours of my entire life was spent w/this CRAPPY movie 1 stars
10/27/99 pipeman A wonderful story--well told and well acted. Beautifully photographed. Don't miss it. 5 stars
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  29-Oct-1999 (R)


  01-Jun-2000 (M)

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