The Legend of 1900

The Legend of 1900 is an interesting new fable from legendary Italian filmmaker Guiseppe Tornatore, maker of Cinema Paradiso and The Star Maker. Based on a monologue by Alessandro Baricco, The Legend of 1900 tells the story of a unique man who never set foot upon dry land. On January 1, 1900, a small baby boy was found abandoned on the Virginian, a transatlantic ship. The crewman who found him names the boy Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon 1900; 1900 for short. 1900 is a true orphan. He knows nothing about his parents or his past. The Virginian is the only thing he knows.

The story unfolds as a series of flashbacks told by a man named Max (Pruitt Taylor Vance, Nobody's Fool, Mumford). In a series of events that seem awkward to the viewer, Max tells various people he meets about his experiences aboard the Virginian with 1900 (Tim Roth, No Way Home, Gridlock'd). The transitions are clunky, causing the story to frequently halt for further exposition before continuing. At a young age, 1900 became a piano prodigy. He entranced people with his ability to play the piano, and dumbfounded people with his refusal to leave the ship. 1900 helped Max ease his transition onto the ocean, and the two became friends, playing together in the band. Max details 1900's experiences with love (in a very Titanic-like meeting), and his encounter with Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III, The General's Daughter, Reindeer Games). Morton is irrationally jealous of 1900 and challenges him to a piano duel to determine the better player. Williams glowers through his role, which is interesting but one-dimensional.

Roth plays 1900 as an enigma. He shows emotion only when he is playing the piano. Vance's character is much more annoying. His only purpose is the narrator. Tornatore gives no reason as to why the two become friends, or remain friends for such a long time. 1900 is well liked by the crew, so why is Max the person 1900 confides in the most? The music of The Legend of 1900 was composed by another legend, Ennio Morricone. Morricone composed more than 400 scores over his career, garnering numerous nominations in the process. Morricone's music permeates the movie, rising and falling with the moods of the characters. The production on The Legend of 1900 is gorgeous. The special effects are great, but here it is a good thing. Long shots of the Virginian do not look quite real, instead it looks almost magical. This is Tornatore's first English film, and although it isn't outstanding, it is a nice effort.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 56 minutes, Rated R for language.

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