Johnny Twennies, a newspaper columnist in present-day New York, is a jauntily cheerful, very friendly, totally honest and upstanding young man who happens to be completely oblivious to any technological or social changes in the past 70 years. He routinely uses telegrams, a manual typewriter, and a manual toaster, and to the pleasure and despair of his girlfriend conducts his personal life in correspondingly anachronistic style. One day he's threatened by criminals who want to plant a false news story. But they've never met anyone like him before...Written by
Johnny promises his editor that he will scoop the Journal American. Johnny's character is set in the 1920s, but the New York Journal American, a Hearst newspaper, did not exist until 1937, after the merger of two Hearst newspapers, the New York Journal, and the New York American. See more »
"Man of the Century" is inspired by silent comedies, early talking movies, vaudeville, and old RKO films.
It gives us a light-hearted look at the different ways in which cultural mores are portrayed in the 1920's and in the 1990's. The opening sequence has the look of the earliest films -- complete with scratches and grainy images and the jerkiness of old home movies. The rest of the film is in high-quality black and white with fine camera work. The film is co-written by Adam Abraham (who also directs) and Gibson Frazier (who stars in the title role as Johnny Twennies).
Johnny Twennies writes a column for a New York newspaper. The time is the 1990's, but Johnny is clearly living in the 1920's. We hear 1920's cliches from him and 1990's cliches from others. Johnny's tenacious innocence is refreshing and quite funny beside Samantha Winter's (Susan Egan) modern day social values. It is funny to hear Johnny swear with words like Applesauce! and Rats! while also hearing the ubiquitous use of f___ing by the others on
screen. The "endless stairs" is a brilliant sequence that breaks up the fast-talking dialogue. Since I love to dance, I was particularly overjoyed with a dance number with Johnny and Samantha dancing the Charlston while the others who are clearly older were dancing the jitterbug and swing and other more modern dances. Johnny's dance partner / leading lady is played impeccably by Susan Egan.
The film is face-paced. I know that I missed many of the innuendos and jokes. I love old movies, but I am not a student of those films or times. I found much pleasure in the experience even though I missed the significance of many one-liners. I also found that I had to adjust to the initial few minutes, first wondering if I was going to have to sit through 80 minutes of scratched film and then wondering what year it was because of the juxtaposition of modern cars and archaic language. About six persons left the audience in a group of about 100-120 individuals who were in an advance screening of the movie. Most of those who stayed were thoroughly engrossed in the film and applauded at the end.
It is similar in many ways to the "Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Pleasantville" in that it carries the charm of someone out of the current time or environment, frozen in another time and culture. Gestures, language, and tempo can be best compared to early films as a whole rather than to a specific film.
"Man of the Century" won the audience award at the 1999 Slamdance Film Festival. If the team of Abraham and Frazier can create another film of comparable quality in a different genre, they will make an enormous contribution to film making.
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