La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano (1998)
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A wholly ridiculous film. Discontent with being simply a real-life Disney-animated Citizen Edward Pianohands - complete with a cherub princess, a supernaturally gifted and kind orphan and a ludicrous story - it attempts to provide an understanding of being "special". Nevertheless, everyone ignores that 1900 is a stow-away second-coming(/Roth the friendly ghost) completely in charge of his reality and they try instead to force him ashore, rather than treating us to a study of his God-like, location bound existence.
Though the entire story is narrated by a homeless mad-men (we assume), this alley of "special-ness" is also ignored. Which is dreadful, considering that his presence ruins everything. The non-linear structure is a complete failure and should have been avoided with either a focus on Roth's life or the storytelling/teller only (with no flashbacks).
All "on the boat" or American characters are stereotypical beyond belief and 90% of the scenes are complete, indiscernible ripoffs of greater works or cliches.
The few pros:
Roth's acting is largely impeccable (internal relativity in mind), Tornatore can still compose beautiful images and the music contains enough bravura and swing to garner repeated listenings afterwards.
It was incredibly long, with many plot holes. Entertaining enough I guess, but by no means a great movie in my opinion.
There are some films that,despite having such a miserable long playing time, won't bore you quickly.However,there are films which have a regular playing time and still bore you to death.In the first category I include "The Lord of the Rings","The Wolf of Wall Street" and "The Shawshank Redemption".You can add this one,which takes about 165 minutes,to this list,because this is a breathtaking and fascinating masterpiece.A musical journey told in the form of a fairy tale,that grabs you by the throat in the beginning and releases you when the credits start.I'm not really a jazz enthusiast or a piano recitals specialist,but it aroused my musical curiosity.Sometimes it feels as if you are getting musical education and you're actually continuously looking at some virtuosic piano playing like in "Grand Piano".There is however a big difference with the latter.And that's the fact that you stay intrigued and want to watch further so you can see how it unfolds.And you don't need toothpicks so your eyes stay open.It's not a recent film, but there was somebody who was praising this movie on some web page and I had to see it.
The whole story is told from the perspective of Max Tooney (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who played brass trumpet along with a legendary pianist in an orchestra on a cruise ship called "The Virginian".This legendary pianist once was abandoned by some poor immigrants and was left to be found in the class of the wealthier passengers, probably to ensure his future,but was eventually discovered and adopted by Danny Boodmann (Bill Nunn),a coal-man in the engine room.The young boy was named Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred.Or just plain simply 1900, his year of birth.To avoid problems with certain instances 1900 lived deep in the hull of the cruise ship, until the day Danny died.Then he suddenly disappears.Until he reappears one night,sitting behind a piano and playing it in a wonderful way.He'll become the most virtuoso fabulous pianist in the world who doesn't have the courage to set foot on shore.
It's directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and is based on the monologue Novecento of the writer Alessandro Baricco.Overall,I thought there were three major chapters in this film.The first part can be described as "Oliver Twist on The Titanic".The same atmosphere and guidance as in Titanic,but without an iceberg anywhere so the crossing to America was completed without a hitch and one could behold the Statue of Liberty after arrival. A kind of Walt Disney part where the first years of 1900 were told in an amusing way. The second part is the largest and most musical part. A series of musical interludes, including the piano duel against Jelly Roll,"The man who invented jazz" as people said,and 1900.Ennio Morricone provided the musical frame.So you know that this is a guarantee for masterful pieces of music.The third part is the most philosophical and tragicomic area.The attempt that Max is doing to get 1900 to leave the old cruise ship before it gets demolished.Three chapters which flow into each other fluently.In the beginning it alternates between the past and the present by means of flashbacks.An engaging,comical and touching film that continues to fascinate and amaze.
Tim Roth,who I recently saw starring in "Broken" and also has an impressive resume on his name,takes care of the lead role as the adult 1900.I think he's a wonderful actor who just has an innate calmness, interspersed with a truly sad, melancholic posture and gaze.The childish amazement about everyday things and the otherworldliness are expressed by him in a simple,unaffected way.He seems like a humble, timid and kind person,until he uses a heartfelt "asshole".A pianist who uses his emotions and the observed characteristics of people in his piano playing and only lives for his music. During a recording that was made by a music company,which would make him world famous and very rich,you can hear the tone and atmosphere of his piano performance slowly turn into a very intimate timbres merely by the appearance of a lovely lady.Even the deep philosophical reasoning in the end sounded acceptable, although 1900 didn't enjoy academic education.He gave a simplistic though rational explication about his state of mind and fear of the unknown.
Pruitt Taylor Vince takes on the role of Max,the lone musician who is forced to sell his instrument.He wasn't really known to me.When I read his biography,he seemed to have made quite a furore in the years 80-90. He has won an Emmy for his role in "Murder One".It looks as if he has been forgotten a bit and only played small parts in some other films.Probably those parts were so small that I can't even remember them.All in all I found him fitting for this part although there was sometimes a case of overacting and he wasn't really in sync with the rudderless ship during the storm as he was wobbling all over the place.This stormy scene was for me rather too dramatic and slapstick-like.Pretending to be seasick,swaying back and forth and doing the waltzing dance while sitting behind the piano.
Although this film is appropriate for it,it still didn't become an overly grand Hollywood spectacle.It was sometimes overwhelming and impressive.The moment someone sees the Statue of Liberty and the whole ship starts waving with handkerchiefs and everybody is shouting out of intense joy (while the upper class sticks to a polite subdued applause) was the first goosebumps moment. After the umpteenth time however,despite the successful comedic approach in the end,it was a bit too much.Also the piano duel was a highlight where it was indisputable that 1900 played in such a way that it looked like he was playing with four hands (and the highlight of the smoldering cigarette of course).Yet at one time I had reached a saturation point.A superb duel and brilliant expressions,but still it was excessively long.But these tiny remarks don't outweigh the greatness of this film. Brilliant, excellent movie !
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #11 in IMDb's Music Top 50
This movie ranks #39 in IMDb's Romance Top 50
This movie ranks #46 in IMDb's 1990s Top 50