The Legend of 1900 (1998)
1900: [explaining why he didn't leave the ship and never will be] 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.
1900: Winter comes, you wish it was summer. Summer comes, you live in dread of winter. That's why we never tire of travel.
1900: 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...
1900: Land? Land is a ship too big for me, it's a woman too beautiful, it's a voyage too long, perfume too strong...
1900: It wasn't what I saw that stopped me Max... it was what I didn't see.
Italian Immigrant: The voice of the sea, it is like a shout, a shout big a strong, screaming and screaming. And the thing it was screaming was, yoooou... with shit instead of brains... life is immense... can you understand that?
Italian Immigrant: Immense.
Jelly Roll Morton: [Jelly Roll Morton enters the hall for the duel, meeting 1900 for the first time] I believe you're sitting in my seat.
1900: [stands, good-naturedly] 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 without the ocean under his ass, right?
1900: That's what they say.
[moves to shake hands, but gets snubbed]
Max: You're never really done for, as long as you've got a good story and someone to tell it to.
Max: What the hell do you think about when you're playing? Where does your mind go when you hit the keys?
1900: Last night I was in a beautiful country. Women had perfume in their hair, everything glowed. It was full of tides.
Max: He traveled. And each time he ended up some place different. In the heart of London, on a train in the middle of the country, on the edge of a giant volcano, in the biggest church in the world, countin' the columns and staring up at the crucifixes. He traveled.
1900: I think land people waste a lot of time wondering why. Winter comes and can't wait for summer, summer comes and you never can wait for winter. That's why you never tire of traveling or chasing some place far away, where it's always summer. Doesn't sound like a good bet to me.
'Pops', the Shopkeeper: [returning his pawned trumpet] A good story's worth more than an old trumpet.
Max: Okay Pops.
Jelly Roll Morton: [before starting his last piece for the duel-to 1900] You can stick this up your ass.
1900: [before starting his last piece of the duel-to Jelly Roll Morton] You asked for it, asshole.
Max: Sometimes that is the way you have to do it: you go right back to the beginning.
1900: 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.
1900: [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.
1900: I don't know how.
Max: [on deck of ship] It happened every time. Someone would look up, and see her. It's difficult to understand. There'd be more than a thousand of us on that ship, traveling rich folks, immigrants, and strange people, and us; yet 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*.
Passenger: [pointing] America!
Crowd: [everyone turns to see the Statue of Liberty, and break out in cheers]
Lemon - age 4: [being put to bed] Danny, what's an orphanage?
Danny Boodmann: Well, orphanage is like a great big prison where they locked up folks that ain't got no kids.
Lemon - age 4: So if I wasn't with you, they would put - you in an orphanage?
Danny Boodmann: You got that right, little lemon. Night, night.
1900: You're the one who invented jazz, right?
Jelly Roll Morton: That's what they say. And you're the one who can't play, unless you have the ocean under your ass,
1900: That's what they say.
1900: It's like a big scream, telling you that life is immense. Once you've finally heard it, then you really know what you have to do to go on living. I can't stay here forever. The ocean would never tell me a thing. But if I get off, live on land for a couple of years, then I'll be normal, just like the others. And then maybe one day, I'll make it to the coast, look up, see the ocean, and hear it's scream.
Max: 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.
1900: Hey, Max, gimme a cigarette, will you?
Max: [bitterly] You're not handling this well.
1900: [calmly] Just gimme a cigarette.
Max: [matter of factly] You don't smoke. What is the matter with you? You could lick this guy with one hand, come on!
1900: [getting agitated] You gonna gimme a cigarette?
Max: [emphatically] 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?
[Max throws him a cigarette angrily]
Danny Boodmann: My son grow up to be a lawyer, I swear I'll kill him myself
1900: 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 landscape to look at, one way to die...?
Max: Leave the ship, marry a nice woman, and have children. All those things in life which are not immense but are worth the effort.
1900: [walking out of the shadows] Where the hell did you get that record?
Max: I still ask myself if I did the right thing when I abandoned his floating city. And I don't mean only for the work. The fact is, a friend like that, a real friend - you won't meet one again. If you just decide to hang up your sea legs, if you just want to feel something more solid beneath your feet - and it's then you no longer hear the music of the gods around you. But, like he used to say, you're never really done for, as long as you got a good story, and someone to tell it to. Trouble is, nobody'd believe a single word of my story.