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The Legend of 1900

Starring Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clarence Williams III, Bill Nunn and Melanie Thierry
Based on a monolog by Alessandro Baricco
Written and Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

From the creator of Cinema Paradiso,which comes highly recommended. [Rated [R], 116 minutes]

Intended to be seen as a fable of some sort, Giuseppe Tornatore's The Legend of 1900 delivers two spectacular screen sequences and a lot of minutes in between. While the film opens on the immigrants on the lower decks, waiting for their first glimpse of America, it's ultimate focus is on the man who never leaves its deck, a man who, technically, never existed.

At the end of WWII, the battle-broken hospital ship Virginian finds its next to last resting place in the docks of Sheffield, England. There, she is to be stripped of anything of value, and then sunk at sea. Among those items is a piano, a remnant of the ship's days as a luxury liner, and inside the piano is the broken remains of an ancient phonograph recording of a man who never existed. The recording is glued back together at a music shop and sits in a bin until the day that Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince) comes in to sell his trumpet. The last tune Max plays on his horn is the same tune on the recording, which brings us to the story of Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon 1900 aka "1900" (Tim Roth), found on the Virginian on the first day of the new Century by coal room worker Danny Boodman (Bill Nunn) and named after the box of lemons he was found in.

Cutting back and forth between the "present," where Max tries to find his friend's hiding place on the ship before it's too late and the ship's heyday in 1927, we learn of the prodigal piano talents of 1900. 1900 spends his life performing for the passengers of the Virginian, both the swells in first class, and the rowdy immigrants seeking a new life in America. We see a ferocious piano "duel" between 1900 and jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III), who has come to see this lanky white boy who, it is said, can play red hot jazz hotter than he. We also see the sad sight of this young man desperately trying to talk up a young immigrant girl (Melanie Thierry) who has won his heart from afar.

That's a page full of good moments in a story that doesn't know if it wants to emphasize the immigrant experience or the desperate search for a friend who never was. The piano pieces and overall score by Ennio Morricone are luscious. The duel with Jelly Roll absolutely smokes, as does an earlier sequence involving a stormy sea and a freewheeling trip by a piano "with no brakes." Those two scenes alone are worth the price of a rental, which is where the rating sits

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Legend of 1900, he would have paid...


Pay per view level. The Legend of 1900 is not a disposable rental. If you can get a bigscreen ticket cheap, the piano sequences alone are worth the price of a ticket.

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