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The Legend of 1900

1998 film by Giuseppe Tornatore

The Legend of 1900 (original title La Leggenda del Pianista sull'Oceano) is a 1998 film.



  • There was always one. One guy alone who would see her first. Maybe he was just sitting there eating or walking on the deck. Maybe he was just fixing his pants. He'd look up for a second. A quick glance out to sea and he'd see her. Then he'd just stand there rooted to the spot, his heart racing. And every time, every damn time I swear. He'd turn to us, towards the ship, towards everybody and scream... America!!!
  • It wasn't what I saw that stopped me Max... it was what I didn't see.
  • Take piano: keys begin, keys end. You know there are 88 of them. Nobody can tell you any different. They are not infinite. You're infinite.... And on those keys, the music that you can make... is infinite. I like that. That I can live by....
  • You rolled out in front of me a keyboard of millions of keys, millions and billions of keys that never end. And that's the truth Max, that they never end. That keyboard is infinite... and if that keyboard is infinite, then on that keyboard there is no music you can play. You're sitting on the wrong bench.... That is God's piano.
  • Christ, did you... did you see the streets, just the streets? There were thousands of them! Then how you do it down there, how do you choose just one... one woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die...?
  • Land? Land is a ship too big for me, it's a woman too beautiful, it's a voyage too long, perfume too strong.... It's music I don't know how to make. I can never get off this ship.
  • [after his grand finale on the piano, he lights the cigarette on the strings of the piano, walks to Jelly Roll Morton and says] You smoke it. I don't know how.
  • Fuck the regulations!
  • And fuck jazz, too.
  • Why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why? I think land people waste a lot of time wondering why?. Winter comes, you wish it was summer. Summer comes, you live in dread of winter. That's why we never tire of travel.
  • All that city... You just couldn't see an end to it. The end! Please, could you show me where it ends? It was all very fine on that gangway and I was grand, too, in my overcoat. I cut quite a figure and I had no doubts about getting off. Guaranteed. That wasn't a problem. It wasn't what I saw that stopped me, Max. It was what I didn't see. Can you understand that? What I didn't see. In all that sprawling city, there was everything except an end. There was everything. But there wasn't an end. What I couldn't see was where all that came to an end. The end of the world. Take a piano. The keys begin, the keys end. You know there are 88 of them and no-one can tell you differently. They are not infinite, you are infinite. And on those 88 keys the music that you can make is infinite. I like that. That I can live by. But you get me up on that gangway and roll out a keyboard with millions of keys, and that's the truth, there's no end to them, that keyboard is infinite. But if that keyboard is infinite there's no music you can play. You're sitting on the wrong bench. That's God's piano. Christ, did you see the streets? There were thousands of them! How do you choose just one? One woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die. All that world weighing down on you without you knowing where it ends. Aren't you scared of just breaking apart just thinking about it, the enormity of living in it? I was born on this ship. The world passed me by, but two thousand people at a time. And there were wishes here, but never more than could fit on a ship, between prow and stern. You played out your happiness on a piano that was not infinite. I learned to live that way. Land is a ship too big for me. It's a woman too beautiful. It's a voyage too long. Perfume too strong. It's music I don't know how to make. I can't get off this ship. At best, I can step off my life. After all, it's as though I never existed. You're the exception, Max. You're the only one who knows that I'm here. You're a minority. You'd better get used to it. Forgive me, my friend. But I'm not getting off.


  • I often thought about him during the war; if only 1900 were here, who knows what he'd do, what he'd say. 'Fuck war' he'd say. But somehow, coming from me, it wasn't the same.
  • You're never really done for, as long as you've got a good story and someone to tell it to.
  • Sometimes that is the way you have to do it: you go right back to the beginning.


Danny Boodmann: My son grow up to be a lawyer, I swear I'll kill him myself.


Max: What is wrong with you?
1900: I can't help it. Music makes me cry.

1900: Hey, Max, gimme a cigarette, will you?
Max: You're not handling this well.
1900: Just gimme a cigarette.
Max: You don't smoke. What is the matter with you? You could lick this guy with one hand, come on!
1900: You gonna gimme a cigarette?
Max: We're gonna be chucking coal a couple a hundred years and all you can say is...
1900: Give me a fucking cigarette, will you?

Jelly Roll Morton: I believe you're sitting in my seat.
1900: You're the one that invented jazz, right?
Jelly Roll Morton: That's what they say. And you're the one who can't play at least you have an ocean under your ass, right?
1900: That's what I say.

Jelly Roll Morton: You can stick this up your ass.
1900: You asked for it, asshole.

1900: You'll come visit me Max won't you, on land?
Max: Sure, I want you to introduce me to the mother of your children. And invite me to Sunday dinner. I'll bring the dessert and wine, and you'll say how I shouldn't have. And when you're showing me your house, shaped like a ship, no doubt, your wife will be in the kitchen cooking a nice turkey. When we're at dinner I'll say what a wonderful cook she is, and she'll say how you always talk about me.

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