Of course, Bugs Bunny was a mean piano player too.
The Legend of 1900 (1998), is too long, very over the top and melodramatic, has an episodic structure often disconnected from the main narrative, yet... there are moments of such beauty and style, ably supported by the brilliance of Ennio Morricone's score which transcend its flaws and remain with you forever.
Perhaps, the choice to shoot in English was what did the final product in, or the epic scale overwhelms the narrative, but neither the cast nor the technical aspects give up on the effort to keep the film in classic company.
Tim Roth, the versatile and extremely talented British actor, plays the titular and tragic 1900, born aboard an ocean-liner, prodigiously grasping the nuances of playing the piano he comes across in the ship's ballroom as a kid.
His life is lived entirely aboard the ship and he has never set foot on land. He doesn't ever yearn to do so, except once when his eyes fall upon a beautiful lady passenger he happens to glance at whilst being requested to record his piano playing.
Such is his talent, the film shows us, that he composes a tune on the spot, inspired as he watches her. A cheesy notion, true, but fabulously executed and I buy it completely every time I see it.
The most amazing fifteen minutes in the film however is a brilliant duel between 1900 and the world famous jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton. There are some classic Tornatore trademarks, quirky characters, colorful extras, deft pacing, comic relief and an edge of dark emotions that bubble out towards the end.
1900 kicks some serious butt ably supported by his piano, and how! A fantastic fifteen minutes in the film!
The Piano is sadly waning away from Hindi films, rarely seen and mostly heard in the musical soundtrack. Hollywood too has rare sightings of a prop that once moved stories and created history.
As for my playing, well I exchanged my red Casio in 1992 for a large professional synth-keyboard as my teacher felt I was good enough to learn on it. I trained for six more years and had the honour of playing two live gigs with him, which are unforgettable life experiences.
Then college happened, he left Bombay and my professional keyboard went into dignified storage amongst my rare books and treasured possessions.
It makes an appearance sometimes, when I have an article to write about pianos or just remind myself that it's not the buttons or keys that make the sound but the fingers following the ear and the heart.
The piano will always be one of my favorite characters in movies.
Do share your memorable piano scenes from films in the comments dear reader, as I leave you with another memorable bit of piano playing.