Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ragtime (1981)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was Ragtime.
(music by Randy Newman)

Verenigde Staten, 1981, kleur, stereo, 155 min.
Productie: Dino De Laurentiis Productions, Sunley Productions Ltd/Dino De Laurentiis
E.L. Doctorow, Michael Weller (I),
Miroslav Ondrícek
Antony Gibbs, Anne V. Coates, Stanley Warnow
Muziek: Randy Newman
George DeTitta Sr., John Graysmark, Peter Howitt, Tony Reading, Patrizia von Brandenstein
Kostuums: Anna Hill Johnstone

Based on the popular novel by E.L. Doctorow, RAGTIME tells the story of four New York families at the turn of the 20th century. Starving immigrant artist, Tateh sets off to make his fortune in Hollywood, but along the way encounters showgirl Evelyn Nesbit who is at the center of a murder investigation. Meanwhile, an upper-class family finds their seemingly perfect existence ruined when black pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. begins to romance a pregnant girl living in their home.

Fact and fiction intertwine in Milos Forman's colorful kaleidoscope of E.L. Doctorow's sprawling novel of turn-of-the-century America. Anchored in the true story of the murder of architect Stanford White (Norman Mailer) by Harry Thaw (Robert Joy) over the affections of his wife Evelyn Nesbit (Elizabeth McGovern), Forman weaves a portrait of early 1900s America in a tapestry of intertwining fictional tales. The primary thread involves the proud black pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. Ragtime (1981 Film Soundtrack) (Howard Rollins) and his demand for justice when a racist fireman destroys his automobile, which escalates into a reign of terror by Walker and a band of revolutionaries. A secondary story involves an ambitious immigrant artist (Mandy Patinkin) whose primitive flipbooks send him on the road to creating early cinema. Centering all of these stories in one way or another is an upper-class family known simply as Father (James Olson), Mother (Mary Steenburgen), and Younger Brother (Brad Dourif). James Cagney came out of a twenty-year retirement to play the irascible Irish police commissioner, a character created for the film. Forman's biggest departure from Doctorow's novel, however, is his focus on Walker's story, cutting away the other threads to little more than asides in the final half of the picture, the primary dramatic weakness of an otherwise rich evocation of America's past. Randy Newman's lyrical score and Miroslav Ondricek's understated cinematography earned two of the film's eight Academy Awards nominations --Sean Axmaker

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