Friday, May 27, 2011

The Legend of 1900

Guiseppe Tornatore, Italy, 1998 (8.2*)
Happy Birthday, Guiseppe, May 27th, 1957!
The movie is definitely unique, about a man who spends his entire life on board an ocean liner and becomes a fantastic piano player for the ship's orchestra. The award-winning cinematography of Lajos Koltai coupled with the direction of Tornatore, director of the Oscar®-winning Cinema Paradiso, Malena, and Star Maker, makes this film happen for many, it's simply gorgeous to see.

The story begins with a man pawning a trumpet, the hearing of an obscure fragment of music on a recording, and the window to the memory of wonderful times is opened once again. We are invited into this memory through a magical tale.

Tim Roth has one of his most demanding and interesting roles in this - he plays the man whose lifetime home is the floating cruise ship, he never leaves it, fearing the outside world. Thus the ship becomes a supplicant mother, whom he never knew, he was found on the ship in a basket. Since a child, he has become an expert pianist on the ship through constant practice, and at one point Clarence Williams comes on board as the arrogant Jelly Roll Morton, who challenges Roth to a piano duel, certainly one of the film's highlights. Pruitt Taylor Vince has his best career role as Roth's best friend, a trumpet player on the ship.

The film is complex and can be said to be about many things, both physical and metaphysical. This ambitious semi-epic covers four decades in a man and a ship's life - it paints a picture of a world only this one man could know. It certainly has the air of a fable, a light fantasy, in which it's possible to live your lifetime within a cruiseliner, sheltered from the outside world like an unborn baby.

This got 7.9 at IMDB, but only 58 from Metacritics, so the public likes it more than the critics.

Winner of 15 awards out of 20 nominations


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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