Off-Key Storytelling Plays Havoc with 'Legend of 1900'

By Colbert, P. S. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

Off-Key Storytelling Plays Havoc with 'Legend of 1900'


Colbert, P. S., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: P.S. Colbert Daily Herald Correspondent

"The Legend of 1900"

* * 1/2

Screenplay by Giuseppe Tornatore; based on the novel "Novecento" by Alessandro Baricco. Produced by Francisco Tornatore. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. A Fine Line Pictures release. Rated R (adult language). Running time: 119 minutes.

Cast:

   1900         Tim Roth
   Max         Pruitt Taylor Vince
   Jelly Roll Morton   Clarence Williams III

With Bill Nunn, Melanie Thierry and Peter Vaughan.

At once technically brilliant and narratively retarded, "The Legend of 1900" gives new meaning to that old saw about "losing something in the translation."

This tale of a foundling who grows up to become a piano wizard without ever setting foot on dry land represents a maiden voyage of sorts for acclaimed writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore ("Cinema Paradiso"), forsaking his native Italian tongue for English.

Not the English language of people in the real world, mind you, but rather a flowery tangle of cryptic conversations and poetic platitudes such as: "You're never really done for as long as you've got a good story and someone to tell it to."

Would that it were so.

January 1900: Scrounging for lost treasure on the ballroom floor of "The Virginian," a trans-Atlantic luxury liner, coal-room employee Danny Boodman (Bill Nunn) discovers an abandoned newborn boy tucked into a lemon crate atop the ship's grand piano.

"I found him on the first month of the first year of this friggin' new century, so I calls him '1900'," Danny declares, starting the cutesy ball rolling.

A tragic accident keeps Danny from seeing his adopted son's ninth birthday, but as the stoker's coffin is being dropped into the sea, young 19 hears his first strains of music.

Flash forward 18 years. …

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