Legend of 1900 - Internet Movie Database Legend of 1900 - Nitrate Online Review
Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store
Legend of 1900 - Nitrate Online Store
Movie Credits Buy It!

Legend of 1900

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 23 November 1999

The Legend of 1900  

 Directed by Giuseppi Tornatore.

Starring Tim Roth, 
Pruitt Taylor Vince, Bill Nunn, 
Peter Vaughan, Mélanie Thierry,
and Clarence Williams III.

Screenplay by Giuseppi Tornatore, 
based on the stage monologue 
Novecento by Alessandro Baricco.

In The Legend of 1900, the latest film by Italian director Giuseppi Tornatore (who did Cinema Paradiso) and his first in English, Tim Roth, acting with great charm and grace, plays Danny, who has spent his entire life, during the first part of the twentieth century, living onboard a great ocean liner traveling back and forth between Europe and the United States. A naturally gifted pianist, Danny sits down at the piano in the ship's grand ballroom and plays gorgeous, extemporaneous compositions (actually provided by the great film composer Ennio Morricone) that stop everyone dead. With no official record of his birth, though, Danny's only proof of existence is through his music. His first, and only, acetate recording is made when he sits down to play and spots a young female passenger (Mélanie Thierry) for the first time, instantly falling in love.

Tornatore's film has had almost an hour shorn from its length, and a few words from its title (originally The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean which is almost as awkward as the current title, but in some ways more preferable), since it premiered in Italy in the fall of 1997. The film has some fine lyrical moments, great and small -- Danny performing on a free-moving piano during an ocean storm; a musical showdown between him and Jelly Roll Morton (played, rather portentously, by Clarence Williams III); passengers catching sight of the Statue of Liberty for the first time -- but, in other ways, it's terribly tiny. Danny, meant to represent the rollicking essence of the new century, is spirited without being adventurous. The enormity of life on land is too much for him; he prefers the surety and containment of a piano keyboard, which always has the same number of keys every time you sit down at it, and of life onboard-ship. But the story never really puts him to the test; we can only take his word that he can only live his life on the ocean, and while Roth plays Danny with tremendous feeling, his self-imposed existence seems more like a narrative device rather than something which takes on any greater, tragic proportions.

The film also suggests that whatever was good and glorious about the twentieth century took flight around the 1950s. This is an observation that, despite the film's often charming quality, seems either terribly naive or tremendously sad. 

Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store
Copyright © 1999 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.