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The Pianist

Starring Adrien Brody
Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
Based on the Book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
Directed by Roman Polanski

IN SHORT: Another Best of the Year selection. [Rated R for violence and brief strong language. 148 minutes]

Renowned in his homeland for his performances and compositions of a classical nature, pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) was not a stranger to the airwaves of Radio Warsaw. Roman Polanski's The Pianist begins on September 23, 1939, with Szpilman performance Chopin's "Nocturne in C# Minor" rudely interrupted by explosions, courtesy bombs dropped on the station by the German Luftwaffe. What follows in the telling of this story, is based on the true story of the real life Szpilman who spent the next eight years trying to keep himself and his family alive.

Polanski tracks the degradation of ghetto life step by step, with the occasional subtitled date to keep us on the proper time track. For those inside Warsaw, there is little to indicate what is to come. First, the Jews are forbidden to work or walk on paved streets or live in apartments they had inhabited for years. Warsaw became the dumping ground for hundreds of thousands of Jews, a walled in stockyard of the soon to be disposed of. There were other cities like it across Europe (like Mir in Russia, where our family hails from) but Polanski's focus is on the destruction of a civilized city and the rag tag network of pre-war friends, and a surprising ally, that enabled the Szpilmans to survive as long as possible.

We don't what more to tell you about The Pianist, seen at the end of a run of close to 60 movies in the December I Wanna Winna Osca glut of releases. It is a moving, emotionally grabbing tale of survival. Of one man with no survival skills foraging for his life and finding aid in the most unexpected of places. With this film in limited release, strictly to gain critical acclaim and hopefully a plethora of nominations for various awards, we intend to catch our breath and a couple of days of sleep and then have another look so we can better describe what works about Polanski's film, without giving away every bit and twist.

That would be very easy to do and we have the notes to do it but it would be disrespectful of (our) readership. The really good stuff should be left to you to discover. Polanski, himself a survivor, manages to carefully balance the absurdity of dealing with the random violence of life in the ghetto. Nazi scum make up rules as they go along. Refugees crowded ten to a room try to figure out how to hide the little money they're allowed to keep -- this before the money itself is declared valueless. "Jewish policemen," place themselves just a step above the thugs in order to avoid the deportation trains, of course, get deported in the end and finally, of course, the ghetto is destroyed. Szpilman's odyssey, believe it or not, truly begins at this point. His survival is, perhaps, more realistic than the one seen several years back in Castaway, and his one alliance comes from the last place he, or perhaps we, would ever expect.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Pianist, he would have paid . . .


If you're in the coast cities where The Pianist is playing, see it. Else, come back in January and we'll have more for you then.

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