I mentioned these two films together because their themes are similar, though their story lines are different. They are about characters lost in their own worlds, and somehow unaffected by the world around them, and yet would be lost should they venture out beyond the comfort zones of what they know.
In Legend of 1900, a wandering minstrel play by Pruitt Taylor Vince, a very likeable character actor, and herald to Roth's character, begins this tale literally at gun point to relay a rather remarkable tale, about a man that never existed, one Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred.
Vince plays trumpeteer Max Tooney, who made a living playing in the dance band aboard the ocean liner S.S. Virginian, travelling across the Atlantic ocean between New York and London. And on his first trip across he meets 1900 in a rather remarkably choreagraphed scene that would have rivaled the grace of Fred Astaire and the comedic genius of Buster Keaton. Tooney is treated to the ride of his life aboard a grand piano as it rolls about the ballroom dance floor as the ship is tossed about by a great storm. All the while serenaded by the lilting sounds of 1900's playing.
1900 you find out was orphaned aboard the ocean liner by his mother, travelling to America, hoping to make a new start for herself. But it isn't long before he is adopted by the ever funny and charming Danny Boodman Sr., played by the equally charming Billy Nunn, a mechanic aboard the ship. And soon 1900 takes to his true calling in life,which is the piano.
The remarkable story behind 1900 is that since he has never placed a foot upon land, he technically doesn't exist in anyplace in the world but on this ship. And he gains an amazing perspective on life and the world, through the eyes and stories of every passenger he meets during his travels. 1900 manages to have quite a few adventures while on board, including a rather memorable and thrilling musical duel with the jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton, played by the rather intense and menacing Clarence Williams III.
This film is charming, funny, poignant and sad all at the same time. Tooney relays the story to an old pawn shop owner, who magically seems to own the only recording of 1900's sweet playing, and now Tooney's trumpet, which he just hocked.
As the audience you learn that in present time, the Virginian is due to be scrapped, and while Tooney tells his tale , you wonder as does the shop owner, what happened to 1900? Did he ever depart the ship? The ending is bitter sweet, and very cathartic.
Tim Roth delivers probably one of the best performances of his life, as does Vince who plays off of his character very well. This is a must see movie, and if you are a fan of Tim Roth, or just great story telling, a must own DVD. I also recommend checking out the Peter Seller's film "Being There".