Run time: 155 mins
Milos Forman’s 1981 adaptation of E. L. Doctorow’s epic featuring the swan song of Hollywood legend James Cagney (and Pat O’Brien).
Spanning two crucial decades of American history, Doctorow’s Ragtime was a sprawling fictional chronicle of politics, culture and society between 1900 and 1913. As such, the book presented an immense challenge for Forman.
Centering on issues of social class and social change, Forman’s Ragtime depicts three of Doctorow’s plot threads; the story of an immigrant artist who becomes a filmmaker, the tale of Evelyn Shaw who becomes entangled in a notorious killing, and the saga of Coathouse Walker Jr (Howard E. Rollins Jr) a talented young black pianist who seeks justice after an incident with a racist fire chief. It is this that takes centre stage, as Rollins, Jr. brilliantly channels the changes he goes through; from youthful romantic love to an impassioned cry of rage. There could be no justice for the likes of Coalhouse Walker in the New York of 1910.
With 8 Oscar nominations, Ragtime still remains a loving, beautifully mounted, graceful film that creates its characters with great clarity. (Research Chris Coetsee) I have been chasing for Ragtime since we opened in 2004. Now it’s finally here, don’t miss it.