movie film review | chris tookey

Legend Of 1900 / The Legend Of The Pianist On The Ocean / La Leggenda Del Pianista Sull'oceano

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  Legend Of 1900 / The Legend Of The Pianist On The Ocean  / La Leggenda Del Pianista Sull'oceano Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
5.25 /10
1900: Tim Roth, Max: Pruitt Taylor Vince, Danny Boodmann: Bill Nunn
Full Cast >

Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore
Written by: Giuseppe Tornatore. Based on a dramatic monologue by Alessandro Baricco

Released: 1999
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Italy
Colour: c
Length: 160

Rambling fable about a brilliant pianist (Tim Roth, pictured) who is born and bred on a cruise liner and unable to fit into any nationality.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Much of Giuseppe Tornatore's picture is beautifully lit and the musical duel between the hero and Jellyroll Morton (Clarence Williams III) is thrillingly edited. Tornatore has found a stunning young actress in French model Melanie Thierry, who makes one of the most effective cinematic entrances since Julie Christie in Billy Liar. However, the story is flimsy and fantastical, and the point hard to discern. Verbal and behavioural anachronisms abound; and the film breaks up and sinks under the weight of its pretensions and excessive length.


As characters go, 1900 is a little underdeveloped, and no one else gets enough screen exposure to function as more than a secondary player... Those attending The Legend of 1900 with hopes of re-capturing the glory of Cinema Paradiso may be disappointed. While Tornatore's latest succeeds in plumbing some of his masterpiece's emotional intensity, The Legend of 1900 is neither as deep nor as powerful as the 1990 Oscar-winner. And the dialogue is riddled with problems (likely the result of the Italian-to-English translation). In fact, this picture doesn't have much to offer audiences - except the opportunity to forget one's troubles and spend two hours taking pleasure from something uncomplicated and unpretentious.

(James Berardinelli, Reelviews)

Has moments of great imagination: a scene, for example, where the piano rolls back and forth across the polished dance floor in a storm, and 1900 keeps on playing. But it never quite develops the conviction we expect. What does it think of this man? Is he crazy or heroic? Nice or narcissistic? At the end we are left with Max the trumpet player, treasuring the sound of an old recording and assuring the antiques dealer that this was some kinduva guy. Yes, but what kinduva guy? And why?

(Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Although Roth's performance is solid and he makes a credible pianist (his fingering is very good), the thin plot keeps us from truly empathizing with his seaborne agoraphobia.

(Morgan Fouch, Rough Cut)

Tornatore's original cut ran in the realm of three hours, and many feel that this two-hour edit is a rude bastardization. Me, I was wanting to claw out single frames from the screen with my bare hands. Scenes go on forever without adding new information or tonal amplification. Tim Roth, who in other films is always so taut and twitchy, here has long stretches in which he merely looks doleful and burdened. (After all, he carries the weight of a century on his shoulders.) Max (Vince), as 1900's Boswellian biographer, fares even worse in the story's poorly designed wraparound sequences, and gives a performance that seemingly borrows from the early Tom Arnold school of acting. Despite these narrative disturbances, The Legend of 1900 remains a sumptuous ride with breathtaking scenes and a soaring musical score by Ennio Morricone.

(Austin Chronicle)

Giuseppe Tornatore's long-winded allegory (in English) about clinging to your own keyboard rather than improvising to life's uncertain riffs, still feels too whimsical to support its philosophical pretensions. But for those who value indulgence and appearance above conciseness and content, there are bravura set pieces like Roth at the grand piano skidding crazily around in a storm at sea, a full-blown Ennio Morricone score, and Fellini-esque decor of Titanic scale that turns the furnace room into a fiery hell and the first-class lounges into a floating heaven.

(Alexander Walker, Evening Standard)

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