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Movie Review: The Pianist

Story: Director Roman Polanski was finally psychologically ready to make a film about the Holocaust. To appreciate this terrific film more it helps to know something about Polanski's history. He was born in Paris in 1933. His Polish-Jewish parents were forced to return to Poland because of rising anti-Semitism in France. His mother died in the camps and his father survived. Young Polanski somehow lived through the nightmare. His leanings toward dark films, such as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby where terrible things happen to innocent people are a part of his psyche. If all that were not enough - his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson in 1969. He left the US 25 years ago when he was convicted of having a relationship with an underage girl. So - with this is mind...

The Pianist tells the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Warsaw celebrity pianist before the War, whose resilience, luck and determination enabled him to be one of a handful of Jews to survive the ghetto and/or the camps in Poland. The film is based on his autobiography which was written shortly after the War.

Unlike other recent Holocaust films, this one has no heroics. There is no sugar coating, no Hollywood feel-good parts, no melodrama. It is a grueling story of the will to live. Polanski brilliantly depicts this saga by the diminishing of Szpilman's physical and mental state. He also shows the effects of the War through the slow but steady bleaching of all color from the scenes. One of the last panoramas is a visual of a devastated landscape -devoid of everything. The War was eating the life out of not only the people but also, the surroundings.

This is not a film for the faint of heart. But if you have the guts to sit through the film it will stay with you for a long while.

Acting: Superb! Adrien Brody is on the screen virtually the whole time and gives a breakout performance. He physically diminishes and hauntingly survives this nightmare. Kudos to him and to Polanski for choosing him as the lead.

Predilections: I am drawn to films about survival and also as you know, dark films - especially about the Holocaust.

Critters: I fear the critters did not do well in Poland, either. Thankfully, I saw none in this film.

Food: The search for food was ever-present. Among the slim pickings were, potatoes, sausage, bread, grain and a can of pickles.

Visual Art: Some old drawings and some paintings from the era. Don't get me started about art that was lost during the Holocaust and has appeared once again on today's art market for sale.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: You can't go wrong with Chopin, Beethoven and Bach, can you?

Opening Titles: None. We were jolted right into the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

Theater Audience: Packed.

Squirm Scale: The whole topic makes me squirm.

Tissue Usage: I had prepared myself mentally for a film about the Holocaust but was not prepared to see a preview for the film The Guys starring Segorney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. It is based on the recent stage play about the firefighter who had to eulogize many of the lost 9/11 firemen. I was caught off guard and used up a tissue before the Holocaust film even began.

Oscar Worthy: Yes. Adrien Brody is worthy.

Nit Picking: Plenty of real nits in the Warsaw ghetto, but no film complaints from me.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen. Some of the scenes demand the big screen to take in all of the devastation. How about renting some of Adrien Brody's other films such as: Bread and Roses, Summer of Sam, Liberty Heights, The Thin Red Line and King of the Hill.

Length: Two hours and 30 minutes.

LOBO HOWLS: 8