RAGTIME (1981)

155 minutes

Director: Milos Forman

Producer: Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematographer: Miroslav Ondricek

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You’d have to be a crazed buffoon not to be familiar with ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ or ‘Amadeus’. Both had a massive impact on popular culture.

Yet nestled silently in between these fairly recognisable films… in between Nurse Ratched and Sallieri… is Ragtime. Made / directed by the same core team responsible for both these hits and based on E. L. Doctrow’s novel of the same name, it’s filled with all the best things that a film should have to be truly great: sex, murders, bombs, black people and Brad Dourif.

I’m just putting it out there as a statement in its own para:

If you like Boardwalk Empire, you’ll love Ragtime.

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Ragtime as a novel, looked at a series of actual events in the early 20th century and bled non-fictional characters into fictional ones. It was fairly revolutionary at the time, born out of the 1970s Manhattenites yearning to re-evaluate and critique historical events of America’s past.

The film as well as the novel explores a series of different stories as characters weave and move into each other’s paths. It’s one measure Crash (Paul Haggis’ version) to one measure Love Actually (shudder). Good characters turn bad, bad characters turn good, and you’re left with moral dilemmas and social injustices as you feel for these turn of the century motherfuckers.

Beyond anything else, whether or not you like period dramas, sex or black people… is the script. As delicious in parts as Network, as dark in others as Midnight Cowboy and as endearing and heart wrenching as Terms of Endearment.

Ragtime is a forgotten classic, nominated for 8 Academy Awards and winning none, it’s one of the first of many fantasy/history films. Without it, there would be no Inglorious Basterds, no The Man With The Iron Fists.

Note: It’s the only film Elizabeth McGovern is in where she doesn’t overact.

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Tips to enjoy Ragtime (1981)

– Visit one of the many uber-trendy Edwardian-esque Shoreditch / Williamsburg clubs and listen to banjo playing losers while you stroke your moustache while you get in mood to watch this film.

– Watch “Once Upon A Time in America” (Sergio Leone’s swansong all about America at the turn of the 20th century as well… sadly in this case – Elizabeth McGovern is back again and this time she acts as well as Keanu Reeves in a blender).

Interesting facts

-OJ Simpson was considered for the role of Coldhouse Walker Jr.

-James Cagney’s last film.

-A star studded cast before they were famous… includes Clive from Cheers, The Nanny from The Nanny, Samuel Jackson from Snakes on a Plane, The ‘you killed my father prepare to die’ guy from The Princess Bride, Doc’s wife from Back to The Future, The Baron from Dune.

Can’t find it / buy it?


Other Links for Trivia and Info on Ragtime:

Wikipedia entry


IMDB entry


IMDB Trivia page


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