A few months ago my Dad was flipping through channels and came across this movie about a piano player who was born on a luxury ocean liner, lived his life aboard the ship and never left.
Let me point one thing out: I absolutely LOVE luxury ocean liners. I love them so much that if I could marry one, I would. I would marry it and have it's little ocean liner babies; it would be awkward, for sure, but I'd do it. I'm not talking about new ocean liners. I'm talking about the old ones: RMS Queen Mary, Lusitania, Queen Elizabeth, Normandie, Titanic; the ships that evoke a different time. A time of leaving your old life and starting a new one, in a new world. A time of luxury, for some, when you paid a fare, boarded a beautiful ship full of brass, wood and glorious luxury around every corner and travelled across the ocean.
Getting back to the movie...at the time, I was busy doing something and the movie was almost over, so I didn't want to start watching it at that time. I added it to my Netflix and about 3 weeks ago I had it delivered to me. I just never found the right moment to watch it until last night. Let me preface my gushing about this movie with this: It isn't perfect, but it is really entertaining and moving and the production design and cinematography is fantastic. The movie came out in 1998, but when I watched it I didn't really notice other than some green screen being a little off.
So what is the movie about? I already mentioned it's about a man who was born on the ship and lived his whole life aboard. That's the general story. The movie opens with a man, Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince, a simply under-rated actor in my opinion) entering a music shop just as the owner is closing up shop. He's down on his luck and wants to sell his trumpet. The owner offers him way less than he knows it's worth, but he takes it anyway. As he leaves he requests to play the trumpet one last time. While he's playing the shopkeeper recognizes the song and asks what it's called. He has a recording of the same song that he found broken into pieces inside a piano he recently bought from a liner that was being dismantled. He plays the recording and asks who the song is by. Max tells him it shouldn't exist and tells the story of 1900.
Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon 1900 (the fabulous Tim Roth), or just 1900, was found on the ship by his "father" Danny while he was searching the ballroom for leftover rich people things. He takes 1900 down to the boiler room and raises him until he is killed by a chain that hits him in the head. After Danny's death when 1900 is 8, 1900 wanders onto the first class deck and sees a party through the a stained glass window. Later at night he wanders in and starts to play the piano. He is a wiz at the piano and shortly has the entire 1st class gathering to hear the music being played. He grows up and eventually becomes the ships piano player in the orchestra which is where he meets Max.
The movie periodically flashes back to the present to cover how Max is trying to get aboard the ship to find 1900 and get him to leave before the ship is destroyed. Something he has never done, though he meant to one time to go start a new life with a woman he writes the mysterious song for. He just couldn't leave because there was no end to anything out there. On the ship there is always an end, a piano has 88 keys and there is always a limit from bow to stern.
His fame goes off ship though and a man named Jelly Roll Morton, who claims to have invented Jazz comes aboard to challenge 1900 to a duel. 1900 plays with him for awhile before completely blowing him out of the water. The scene is a little long, but is not only entertaining in content but the cinematography and some of the shots used, particularly one right near the end where the camera sweeps from one side of the piano up and over to the other side, are wonderful.
The movie was very delightful for the most part and the production design, as I mentioned above was to die for. Both the ship as it was and as it is now (which is sometime in the 1940's) is beautiful. And at times when the movie goes from shots of the rusted out dome in the ballroom to the beauty of what it once was, I was blown away. As I mentioned I love luxury ocean liners, but I also love abandoned things too, so those parts of the movie appealed to me as well. As I said, it isn't a perfect movie. I really wondered how 1900 was so clean and fit after supposedly never leaving the ship that has been left alone to rust so heavily. I mean, where did he was his clothes/self and find food? But overall the movie was wonderful and I highly recommend it. I'm going to try throwing some clips in below, one will probably be the last scene, so don't watch it if you don't want to see the end.
*The shot I mentioned above occurs at 6:59 in part 1*
*That anchor that flew at the camera would have been removed before detonation...*
*Just look at that set, and the cinematography and the camera angles! Gorgeous!*
*This song is beautiful!*
YouTube User darksumiregusa has the entire movie on their channel.
I honestly do not understand how this movie didn't get more attention and awards...