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Author Topic: The Legend of 1900 (La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano)  (Read 7557 times)
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« on: January 19, 2009, 10:25:25 PM »

Among Morricone's finest achievements.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgXW6XDnhXA

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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2009, 12:07:48 PM »

And Tornatore's too.

Although you have to get the full Italian version and not the butchered international release.

One of my all-time favorite movies. Absolutely magnificent.

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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2009, 09:00:21 PM »

Is the Italian version avaliable to the US? With English subtitles?

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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2009, 12:55:51 PM »

Here is the version you want: La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano. The US release is something like 40 minutes shorter!!

It is R2 so you will need to have a region-free player in the US (if your player isn't region-free, just search for the hack on-line - I unlocked my mother-in-law's Philips DVD player so she could watch my Korean copy of Malena which I believe to be the only uncut version with English subtitles available)

Tornatore used English speaking actors for this one so the main audio is English. If you do want to watch the Italian dub then there are English subtitles for this too, but I wouldn't recommend it.

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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2009, 10:35:55 AM »

Nice review here discussing the savage butchering done to the US release. The author does however mistranslate the original Italian title by confusing the indirect and direct articles (it should be "The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean").

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FILM REVIEW
The Legend of 1900
La Legenda del Pianista SullíOceano
By Vladimir Zelevinsky
ARTS EDITOR

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

Itís dangerous to take a long movie and chop it to make it shorter. Such a fate befell Guiseppe Tornatoreís new film, The Legend of 1900. Despite the obvious cinematic strengths and exceptional visuals, the film -- especially in its last third -- feels inconsistent, uneven, and choppy; I could almost see the scissor marks on the celluloid.

Commercialism is to blame, of course. After the success of Tornatoreís Cinema Paradiso (which was also truncated from the 170 minute-long directorís cut to the still magical but rather uneven 123 minute-long version), 1900 was financed by the Hollywood studio 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. Both of these backfired. As for the filmís length, Tornatoreís cut was 160 minutes, and the studio chopped off 40 of those. Whoever did it (and it was not the author/director himself, who strenuously opposed the changes) clearly didnít understand the film; the cut that can be seen in American theatres, concentrates on the story. And it just so happens that the story is by far the least important element of this film.

It can also be summarized in one short sentence: a man with the peculiar name of 1900 (Tim Roth, best known as Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs and Ringo in Pulp Fiction) is born on a huge oceanic liner, and never leaves it for his whole life, crossing the ocean voyage after voyage, playing the piano for passengers. Thatís it, really; 1900 is clearly a European film, with its artistic sensibility being a far cry from the story-centered mainstream American cinema.

The main strength of 1900 lies in its images, and here the film is remarkable. While not the instant classic that Cinema Paradiso was, it nevertheless manages several brilliant sequences. Thereís the impossible, diffused-through-the-glass shot when 1900 first sees his destiny manifested in the form of a grand piano. Thereís the wildly cinematic scene of an improvisation, played on a piano which is rolling around the ballroom floor while the ship is tossed around by a storm. Thereís the filmís exuberant centerpiece, a piano duel with famous Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III), which culminates in a thrillingly theatrical gesture.

When Tornatore throws such pieces at the viewer, heís at the top of his game, and itís obvious that this is a work of one of the worldís most exciting film directors. As a screenwriter, though, he is less impressive, clearly hobbled by the necessity to write the dialogue in English. Thereís not much dialogue, sure; but what is there sounds rather bland. As a matter of fact, most of the time I wished 1900 were a silent film: the power of the images is astounding, and the dialogue only tends to dilute the impact. Even the title suffered: the Italian version has the long but clear name La Legenda del Pianista SullíOceano (The Legend of a Pianist on the Ocean).

The actors, too, seem to feel much more at ease when they can just be: Tim Roth, Clarence Williams III, and Pruitt Taylor Vince as the filmís narrator have a certain texture in their portrayals, and they are perfectly convincing (especially Roth when heís playing the piano; I didnít doubt for a second that heís a brilliant virtuoso). That is, they are convincing until they start speaking: then they betray the fact that none of them really plays a character per se; they are merely abstractions, Magritte-like faceless figures existing mostly to contrast with the much more vivid background imagery.

And then, of course, thereís the story, or rather absence of such. It proceeds at a leisurely pace and intentionally omits essential plot points (for example, the film totally sidesteps the question of how its protagonist learned to play the piano) but isnít the filmís major weakness.

1900 is most enjoyable when it can be merely observed, marveling at its beauty, without much of an emotional connection. I can only guess that the directorís cut (which I havenít seen) enhances this observational quality. The American version, however, seems to shoehorn this film into a standard narrative form, and this feels more and more forced as the film progresses, with the long stretches of sublime introspection getting less and less clear, and the editing becoming messier by the minute.

I hope Tornatoreís next film will be in Italian, and as long as the director wants it to be. Otherwise, the result will be very much like The Legend of 1900: a film forced to be something that it is not.

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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 01:06:39 PM »

Great review! I myself noticed something weird about the dialogue but didn't realize it was because Tornatore's English is not so great (probably a little better than the Maestro). I felt cheated upon hearing that not only the film was cut, but they don't even have a full English language version.

The last part made me lauh, because his next film was indeed cut. Then after that they stopped bothering to promote them just released them without anyone but fans noticing.

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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2009, 01:32:16 PM »

Great review! I myself noticed something weird about the dialogue but didn't realize it was because Tornatore's English is not so great (probably a little better than the Maestro).

Never noticed a problem myself -then again I haven't watched the cut version.

I felt cheated upon hearing that not only the film was cut, but they don't even have a full English language version.

Yes they do have a full English language version. It was originally shot in English; if you buy the uncut version from Italy, you have a choice of English or Italian audio for the whole version in all its splendor.

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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2009, 02:34:15 PM »

I didn't think it was a problem, I accepted it as sailor speak. I remember 1900 having a bit of a potty mouth, but what do you expect from a guy who was raised by sailors?

Great! I should have no problem acquiring it the uncut version.

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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2009, 05:32:26 AM »

I've only caught parts of it on TV and never made any sense, now I know why.

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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2009, 11:43:39 PM »

Although you have to get the full Italian version and not the butchered international release.

Yeah, I saw the butchered version, which the plot was both rushed and incomprehensible at times.

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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2009, 10:28:48 PM »

I finally watched the 160 minute version, and it is so much better than the 120 minute flop. Not one second of The Maestro's music should have been cut.

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