The Pianist  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Pianist is an Holocaust survival movie told through the story of one survivor (the main character), as directed another. The film is based on the autobiography of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew and a renowned classical pianist who was living in Warsaw at the time of the German conquest in 1939. It follows his trip from normal life to the first stages of the occupation, thence to the Warsaw ghetto, and finally to his solitary battle to stay hidden in plain view, among the empty apartments and boarded-up shops of Warsaw, first by living off the kindness of the underground, then by surviving because of the decency of a senior Wehrmacht officer who found him and protected him.

Szpilman's own memories are fleshed out by the director's, for Roman Polanski is also a Polish holocaust survivor.



It is a great film.  I don't like to watch holocaust films, and don't really care to see any more of them, but this film managed to show me some new aspects of the Nazi conquest, even though I've seen so many films and read so many books on this subject:

  • Polanski's vision of Szpilman walking alone through the deserted, silent, bombed-out streets of Warsaw is a picture that I had never seen or imagined. It could easily have come from a post-apocalyptic science fiction film.
  • It was interesting to see how people profiteered unscrupulously from even the bleakest of circumstances. One swindler in the Polish underground was going from door to door collecting significant goods and money on the pretext of feeding and clothing the great pianist while he was in hiding. But Szpilman never benefited from the donations. In fact, the con man told Szpilman that he brought no food because he had nothing left to sell, and in so doing managed to talk Szpilman out of his own watch!

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • "Story of Survival" featurette on the making of the film

  • Archival war footage

Adrien Brody took his career to a new level with this performance, which is sure to receive recognition in various award competitions. I think everyone in the industry was aware that he was a talented young man, but not this talented. This was an exceptionally difficult role to play with subtlety, and he nailed it. He had to go for long stretches when he was the only person on camera, and had no one to talk to, yet he was still able to mesmerize the audience with his facial expressions and body language as he reacted to current events and recalled prior incidents in his life.

The Critics Vote

  • Panel consensus: three and a half stars. Roger Ebert 3.5/4, James Berardinelli 3.5/4 (a high three and a half - it made his annual Top 10 list).

  • The reviews from the British critics were surprisingly tepid, averaging only about three stars. Daily Mail 6/10,  Daily Telegraph 8/10,  Independent 7/10, The Guardian 8/10, The Times 8/10,  The Sun 10/10, The Express 6/10, The Mirror 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Voting results: IMDb voters score it an astronomical 8.5/10
  • It was budgeted at $35 million for production. It grossed $32 million in the USA.

Awards ...

  • The film was nominated for the Golden Globe as the best drama. It was nominated for seven Oscars, and won three major ones (Actor, Director, Screenplay). It was nominated for seven BAFTAs and won two, including Best Film. It won various other prizes and nominations, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C+. It is an extraordinary movie, but be warned: it's three hours long, with very little dialogue in the second half.

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