The art house film, for me can mean one of two things: Something unique that mainstream audiences won't watch, or an experiment in storytelling. The Legend of 1900, or 1900, is both of these categories. It's a fable about a man who lives out his life as a piano player aboard a transatlantic liner, and it's a very interesting story idea.
The beginning of the film is odd, with a narrator that looks like something out of a bad film noir. After this initial shock, he does voice one really beautiful moment when a liner full of immigrants comes into New York, and the passengers see the Statue of Liberty. If they had continued in that vein, the movie would have been really wonderful. However, the storytelling shifts rapidly to a jumbled collection of flashbacks from the life of the protagonist (Tim Roth) named...1900. Choppy and uneven as it is, Roth makes him a likeable character, but they introduce some very dull situations for 1900 to live through. There's so much great history to be found around ships like that, it was a shame they didn't exploit it. It disn't need drama, but 1900's character just doesn't adapt or change much. He accepts his life, and is resigned to his failures. He has a lot of them, and even a brief romance goes nowhere, it just sort of stops with nothing much dramatic about it. In fact, he doesn't exploit any of his successes either.
1900's life reaches its peak with a piano duel with Jelly Roll Morton, and after that the movie kind of ambles along, semi-propelled by the narrator Max. (who's rather annoying, like a bad Bogart cliche) But to no avail, the movie reaches a predictable climax, if that's what you can call it, and the move ends. I felt very let down, not because it wasn't happier or sadder just because it was so blah.
I'll say this: It has some good moments, and the character is interesting. Like I said above, it won't appeal to many people, but it's an odd little film, and might be worth a watch. It succeeds in being unique, but fails in its experimental storytelling.
The Statue of Liberty sequence is the best part, after that, you can turn it off, and not miss much. Or perhaps you will be intrigued. That's why I rate this one 50%: Your life, and your 2 hours is up to you. Make your choice to watch or not to watch, but for Gods sake do something, unlike Mr. 1900.