La Legenda del Pianista sull’Oceano
or The Legend of 1900
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Written by Giuseppe Tornatore, based on a novel Novecento by Alessandro Baricco
With Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clarence Williams III, Melanie Thierry, Bill Nunn, Peter Vaughan,
Any website that has my hand in its making, must inevitably carry word of a most significant and profound film.
It is an English language film despite its name. I caught the American version (The Legend of 1900) accidentally one night flipping through the channels and after viewing it for a while began to realise that I was watching a most remarkable film. So enamoured of it was I, that I caught it from the beginning a few evenings later and recorded it. The Legend of 1900 became a total obsession and I watched it dozens of times.
I wanted to know more about the background story and the making of the film and did my research. Kim found and sent to me the original book, Novecento by Alessandro Baricco, OK it was in German, but at least I have it (there isn't an English translation).
I was distressed to discover that the film version I had been watching had been ruthlessly chopped by the Hollywood studio that financed the film, New Line films. The studio demanded that the film be in English and that the length be under two hours, so the exhibitors could fit in an extra showing per day. Tornatore’s cut was 160 minutes, and the studio chopped off 40 of those.
Tornatore had directed an earlier wonderful and sucessful film, Cinema Paradiso (which was also chopped from the 170 minute-long director’s cut to a still magical 123 minute-long version),
Miffed that I was being outdone of what promised to be forty wonderful minutes of 1900 footage, I searched out the original director's cut and made my purchase. I was also lucky in acquiring the director's cut of Cinema Paradiso. Contrary to most people's opinions it is The Legend of 1900 I regard as being the best of the two. You just have to see this film, it is remarkable.
Unfortunately the director's cut is the European standard DVD which means American viewers can't watch it on their equipment.
Then I then invested in the wonderful sound track to the film (Ennio Morricone) only to discover that too had been chopped by Sony for the American market and so had to get a second copy from an Italian retailer who was selling the Sony European version which carried all the tracks.
|What is the film about?|
|Simply, it is about a boy who is abandoned as a baby on a passenger liner (The Virginian) that plies between Europe and the United States. He is rescued by a stoker named Danny Boodman (Bill Nunn) who names the boy Danny Boodman TD Lemons 1900 (TD Lemons after the Tano D'Amato Lemons box he was found in and 1900 the year of his birth) and secrets him and raises him as his own child. Danny is killed in a stokehold accident during a big storm and so the boy is orphaned for a second time. He is nurtured and cared for by the Virginian's crew.|
|One day 1900 is discovered playing the piano in the ballroom - a miracle, for no one knew he had learned to play somehow. He grows up to become a virtuoso pianist playing with the ship's dance band.||
|However, despite having made innumerable trips between the United States and Europe, he never ever gets off the ship, in part because he spent his entire early life and formative years secreted away, and so the Virginian becomes his world in which he feels secure. On paper he simply doesn't exist. The world at large is far too immense for him to contemplate.|
|He befriends a trumpet player Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who narrates the fable (right).||
|There are some beautiful and exquisite moments in the film and some significant events - the scene of 1900 (Tim Roth) and Max careening around the ballroom at a free rolling grand piano in a storm is brilliant.|
|Perhaps the major event in the film is a magnificent piano playing competition between 1900 and the jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III), which is the counterpart of the old Western gun slinging duel.||
|There is a brief unrequited love story thread when 1900 encounters 'the girl', one of the Virginians passengers (Melanie Thierry).|
|Eventually, after serving as a troop ship during the Second World War, the Virginian is scrapped and awaits demolition by being blown up at sea (c1945), but only Max the trumpet player knows that 1900 is still on board, still never having left the ship. The thread of the story of 1900 and the story of the trumpet player trying to convince the demolition company that there is someone on board the old liner interweave comfortably throughout the film, leading up to the final moments.|
|Don't be put off by some of the reviews (see below), some people just don't have a soul - this is a must see number and receives my 'best film I have ever seen award'.|
|Cinemagoers reviews (American cut version)|
|Region 1 (North America) DVD: 117 minute version 'The Legend of 1900' Giuseppe Tornatore|
|Region 2 (Europe) DVD: (English speaking) 160 minute version 'La Leggenda del Pianista sull’Oceano' Giuseppe Tornatore|
|CD Soundtrack: Sony American version: SK66767 Ennio Morricone|
|CD Soundtrack: Sony European version: SK60790 Ennio Morricone|