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Thread: Polanski's THE PIANIST

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  1. #1
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    Polanski's THE PIANIST

    I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see Polanski's latest film. There is a fascinating review titled: The Eternal Nazi: Watching Roman Polanski's The Pianist in Germany By William Grim. It was originally published on December 2, 2002.

    There are some extreme, even outrageous points made in this review. I not only find them difficult to believe, but think they suggest a characteristic of the German people that is inflamatory — does nothing to promote real understanding.

    What are your views?

    Find the review at:
    http://www.zcportal.com/2002/1202/pianist.asp



    The broad U.S. release of THE PIANIST will be January 3rd.
    Last edited by docraven; 12-28-2002 at 01:20 AM.

  2. #2
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    I read the article you referenced and I thought it was poorly written and agenda-driven. I also roamed the web site--it's new and not very compelling--and found a brief bio of the guy who wrote it. His background did not have enough information to justify his take on Germany (oh, I forgot, he lives in Europe so he's an expert) and what credentials he did have did not justify his take on the German Volk, as he calls them.

    That said, as a child of two Holocaust survivors (and whose family is either dead at the hands of the Nazis or scattered in pockets all over the world), I do have a knee-jerk reaction to Germans and, unfortunately, have yet to meet one whose buttons couldn't be pushed far enough to finally utter some kind of damning, implicating phrase that told me more than I wanted to know.

    Not that I tried hard in pushing those buttons. It just seems that some of the Germans I have come in contact with (some very closely) are thin-skinned and prepared to spout philosophy much easier than others. Others seem blissfully ignorant of their incendiary views, as if it's okay to have them. While expressing dismay over their actions, they don't seem overly obliged to offer an apology.

    I don't know what I expect at this point so I realize my family's background (by the way, my parents were Polish and the knee-jerking I feel extends to the Poles as well) implicates me as well. I want very much to forgive and look for some guidance in my faith--which I don't get; Jewish guilt extends far beyond one's mother--to get on with it. (From a purely commercialized standpoint, I want my faith to give me permission to buy a Mercedes and I have lust in my heart for BMWs.) But it's hard to let go of what my parents went through. My mother said "Schindler's List" was accurate but was about one-tenth of what she actually experienced. And I thought "Schindler's List" was pretty harrowing myself.


    I think I'd like to give "The Pianist" a chance because Polanski is much more cerebral than Spielberg. But I thought "Schindler's List" was a remarlable undertaking nonetheless. And while Spielberg did try to show the humanity of certain Germans, I think Polanski--who was there--is a pragmatist whose films are nothing if not brutally honest. ("Bitter Moon" comes to mind as a film made by an auteur who couldn't care less what anyone else thinks of him.)

  3. #3
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    (From a purely commercialized standpoint, I want my faith to give me permission to buy a Mercedes and I have lust in my heart for BMWs.)

    To quote Clinton, I feel your pain. I ride to work each day with a guy who drives a seven series beemer. Luxury engineering if there ever was... I can only sniff the leather interior. (You know it has a heated glove compartment lined with mouse fur?) My wages allow me to enjoy public transit on a regular basis..

    Re: The Pianist, for the first time this year I cried at the movies. Actually, it was on the way home after. This should finally get Polanski some due recognition. PREDICTION: This film will be nominated for best foreign film, but due to Polanski's exile, he won't win. It's OK though, because he got the Palm D'or. I love Cannes. Why the hell don't they let the public attend?

    All hail Romek Polanski. (Bitter Moon is my favorite guilty pleasure film. It's no wonder he married that bombshell Seigner)
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  4. #4
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    I plan to read Grim's review and return to this forum after watching THE PIANIST this week. For the time being, I need to say that categorical thinking is erroneous and simplistic when applied to human beings. When you assign a person a certain characteristic based on national origin you are robbing him of his humanity, his unique nature. To approach another with preconceived notions is to deny oneself the chance to really know him. To borrow from Doc, it does nothing to promote understanding.

    I'd like to call attention to POLANSKI'S MACBETH, a superb, visually rich film that few have seen due to the director's legal problems when released. MACBETH is now available on DVD(widescreen, great transfer)

    I think THE PIANIST cannot be nominated for the foreign language Oscar because this international production is largely in english.

  5. #5
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    Macbeth=masterpiece

    I have the Macbeth DVD, and it IS gorgeous. I remember seeing it in grade 12 english class and thinking: man, this is VIOLENT. (A response to the murder of Sharon?)

    I got the DVD the day it came out. Polanski is in my top 5 of fave directors. i've seen all of his films- even Two Men and a Wardrobe & The Fat and the Lean. I actually prefer Repulsion & Knife in the Water to Chinatown, which gets heaps of praise. Bitter Moon and Death & the Maiden are incredible entertainment. Must sees imho.

    I liken Roman to Elia Kazan: say what you want about the man's life, the films are what matters, and both are genius incarnate. If I were to go to film school, Lodz would be my choice.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    REPULSION

    I named REPULSION fave horror film ever in "my top 10 movies" thread. Guy once told me I'm more afraid of my fragile mind than monsters or demons. The tension and dread are masterly sustained by Polanski and Deneuve. Then the final shot revealing succinctly the etiology of her sexual repression and paranoia.

    I have enjoyed all of his films but, to be honest, TESS('79) is the last Polanski to make my top 10. I also think CUL-DE-SAC is special, but it's not available in any format. CHINATOWN manages to add political infighting, use of natural resources and social consciousness into typical film-noir narrative. Polanski's intense cameo. Nicholson, Dunaway and Huston. And again, just like in REPULSION, sexual abuse rears its grotesque, ugly head.


    I don't want to judge Polanski or Kazan's life. "The films are what matters"(Johann) Now, how do I evaluate THE BIRTH OF A NATION and TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, genius in the service of evil?

  7. #7
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    You're opening a pandora's box!

    Hmmmmm.

    Birth of a Nation. I always sidestep the racism wholly apparent in the film because it was "the times". If we had cinema back when they burned witches at the stake we would be faced with the same question- should we support such images? Personally I cherish my right to see these films. A bigger issue would be the censoring of these historic movies. But then a studio would chop away at that by giving us The Passion of Joan of Arc, so all would not be lost. (There's always some Oliver Stone ready to hack at the status quo)

    Triumph of the Will is a little more difficult to "explain away". Leni was Hitler's favorite filmmaker, and considering the climate in her country, you could hardly fault her for endorsing the reich. At least she made a masterpiece documentary (If she made a shitty film then I don't think we'd be talking about her)
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  8. #8
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    To go back to Polanski's "The Pianist"....

    I gather that some of us would recognize that Polanski made some most excellent films in the past--if he has faltered a bit lately. Rather than engage in pointless polemics about Naziism or the guilt of the German people, I'd rather go back to Polanski's "The Pianist," which is where this discussion started. There hasn't been much focus on the film itself. I'd suggest that it presents the experience of Wladyslaw Szpilman (or something very like it) and that experience, in all its mystery, sadness, and humanity, that triumph of the human spirit and music, is all we need to get out of watching Polanski's remarkable new creation.

    Polanski has always had a coolness and a clear perception of evil that may help explain why his depiction of the Germans in Poland in the war is so convincing. He also happens to have been there (in Krakow anyway, if not Warsaw), as a younger person, hiding out and surviving as Szpilman did. If we recognize the validity and specificity of the experience "The Pianist" presents, all the ideas and generalizations fall back into their proper places where they belong. "The Pianist" is not a polemic but the recreation of an experience of considerable emotional power and of a decidedly tragic dimension. Controversial and unpalatable as this material is, it is the material of art, not of polemic. (Nonetheless I agree with bix171 that the filmmaker is more cerebral than Spielberg: it's this that gives his emotional story conviction.) Polanski himself moreover deserves treatment as an artist, here, not as a pathology or a legal case.

  9. #9
    Marina Guest
    I saw The Pianist twice and thought it was amazingly well done.

    I agree with the last post on the irrelevance of the German People tangent. It seems inappropriate to me and, at some points, rather offensive. I feel a little embarassed even having to write this, but I know many Germans who would never utter a "damning, implicating phrase," no matter how far they were pushed.

    Speaking of relevance, or irrelevance ... I agree that Polanski deserves treatment as an "artist," but I don't think that necessarily precludes treatment as a "legal case." Simply because someone creates good art, it doesn't mean you mustn't consider that person in other ways. The fact that Polanski raped a 13 year-old girl isn't relevant to a discussion of his films, but it's still important for me to know. You know, as a, yes, feminist, but more significantly, as a human being.

    - Marina
    Last edited by Marina; 01-10-2003 at 09:48 AM.

  10. #10
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    Extraneous issues and culpability

    To Marina: What you say is quite true, but I was trying to get back to a discussion of the film in question, which so far hardly anyone here seems to have seen or commented on directly. I'd like to hear specific comments from people who have seen it. Do they think, as David Denby says, that the hero is a blank, and that the film is without great originality or imagination? Do they think, as he has written, that Schindler's List has better acting and is more "complex"?

    I have a feeling that a lot of Americans are wearing blinders when they see "The Pianist" and seeing what they want to see instead if it.

  11. #11
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    The Pianist

    I can only comment that The Pianist should be compared with only one thing: Polanski's other films. It's moot to compare it with Schindler's List because while the time-frame is the same, they are two separtate stories. (Just like every person who was persecuted during that time has their own story)

    If any film can be compared to The Pianist, it's Holland's Europa Europa. Both have characters who face horrifying odds and have to act accordingly. Kubrick made a great point about Schindler's List:

    "It was about success, wasn't it? It wasn't about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was about 6 million people who lost their lives. Schindler's List was about 600 who didn't."

    I have to let my opinions of The Pianist gestate for a while. It affected me in a way only the best films do: purely emotional. It pushed ALL of my buttons.
    So I'll perhaps comment later when I form a concrete analysis. (Kubrick's films did the same thing to me)
    Last edited by Johann; 01-11-2003 at 06:31 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  12. #12
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    comparisons...

    ..are odious, he saying goes. But they're inevitable. Everybody is comparing "The Pianist with Schindler's List, so why shouldn't we respond? Why not compare it with anything we like? But Europa, Europa is a good one to bring in. It does have important points in common. But so does Schindler's List: the Warsaw ghetto.

  13. #13
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    WWII films

    Sad to say, but World War II will always be a wellspring for film directors. So many great films about this time in history:

    Stalingrad
    The Anne Frank Story
    A Bridge Too far
    The Devil's Brigade
    Das Boot
    A Midnight Clear
    Patton
    Saving Private Ryan
    Memphis Belle etc etc
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  14. #14
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    I would like to add to that list “Die Brücke,” directed by Bernard Wicki (1959), one of the best anti war films of all time. I saw it when I was just out of college and I could not speak for two hours. I saw it again recently and it has not lost its power. It’s about Germany in 1945 when no one is left to fight but teenagers. You know who they all are when their futile battle begins and the effect is devastating.

  15. #15
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    The Bridge is indeed awesome. I knew that Spielberg had to have seen it before he started SPR. A few scenes were very familiar...My Name is Ivan is also a masterpiece. While not a war film per se, A Man Escaped was a harrowing watch.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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