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Thread: Polanski's THE PIANIST

  1. #16
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    I'm glad that you've seen The Bridge. It doesn't seem to be very well known --unless you're German!-- and videos of it are pretty rare around here. Your movie knowledge impresses me. Maybe it influenced Speilberg (it would be like him to have seen everything, of course) but SPR is mealy-mouthed and flabby compared to Die Brücke.

  2. #17
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    movie knowledge

    This site is great because it attracts people who know what the fuck they're talking about. (and who have language/social skills)

    There are a few movie "chat" sites on the net that are saturated with people who are immature, bullies, or are just "hangin'". I don't waste time on the internet. I like to learn from others-others who enjoy movies as I do.


    I think the lack of talk about The Pianist is due to the fact that the film hasn't been seen. It played a week here in Canada, and will be back next week for a healthy run before the oscars. I'll be seeing it again-no doubt about that. I'm even going to buy the book it's based on. YES IT'S THAT GOOD. For the love of Yogi people, see it.
    Last edited by Johann; 01-15-2003 at 06:27 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #18
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    Indeed. Besides that this site seems to have the virtue of being relatively small, so individuals can be noticed, and I've also observed with pleasure that the fellow in charge is civilized and kind.

    Now I hope somebody else has something more to say about The Pianist that hasn't been said before and that does it honor. I've said about all I can say about it for now but I'd like to hear from other people because I think it's a truly fine piece of work. I was--to return to that--a bit shocked at the way the New Yorker reviewer, who's presumably quite influential--damned it with such faint praise.

  4. #19
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    Re: Mr. Grim

    Originally posted by docraven [ 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.
    No kidding: "I was tempted to bitch slap a couple hundred Germans but I managed to hold my fire", "The German soul is a deep abyss, a fetid, stinking morass..." "I pumped my fist and yelled out U S A!"

    One grandiose, delusional hatemonger.

  5. #20
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    Polanski's THE PIANIST

    Comparisons with Schindler's List are useful because for many Spielberg's notorious film is the only holocaust film seen. Spielberg's film is about an aryan hero within a large canvas while Pianist is told from the point of view of a jewish survivor. Pianist refuses to demand our tears the way List does. The Warsaw ghetto recreated here is quite a sight-especially after being bombed and emptied out- but Polanski never shows off. It can be argued that this straightforward conception is a bit stodgy but others would say that's the best approach given the grim, bizarre subject matter. I did not see a better english language film in 2002; Polanski's mastery of filmic narration and rhythm are in ample evidence, particularly during the perfectly orchestrated first half. He wisely casts actors we don't recognize(except for Brody) to facilitate verisimilitude. Now allow me to play devil's advocate: Does it have anything new to say or find a different way to say it? Your answer depends on your familiarity with holocaust filmography: The Pianist will feel fresher and bolder if you haven't seen De Sica's Garden of the Finzi Contini's, Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants and Lacombe Lucien, Holland's Europa, Europa and Korczak, the dutch The Assault, and the inventive czech film Divided We Fall. Personally, I appreciate how Polanski makes palpable both the jewish collaboration and resistance, and details the class system within the ghetto. In conclusion, I'm glad Roman Polanski got to make his movie.

  6. #21
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    The link for me with "Schindler's List"--a very important one-- is the Warsow ghetto. The roundup of Jews in the ghetto in "Shindler" was very terrifying to me, the most terrifying single sequence. However, Polanski's film doesn't try to terrify; rather, it horrifies, and does so casually ("the Banality of Evil"). The thing that sets "The Pianist" apart is that the final long sequence is meandering and lonely and in an odd way (despite all the artillery and explosions) quiet, (the hero barely speaks) and it's not punctuated by much of anything that we remember other than the moving and unexpected scene where Szpilman plays Chopin for the German officer who's caught him hiding and forraging. This scene has many layers of meaning. Even the actor Brody himself was almost literallystarving and freezing at the moment when that scene was shot, which is to say perhaps his method acting really worked, because the moment is impressive, again, beyond words. The music in that harrowing situation is symbolic of the other side of humankind, the side worth living for. The whole final meandering sequence gives us a chance to meditate on what the whole film is about and to soak up the experience. "Au revoir les enfants" is very powerful too--I saw it in Paris and I started to cry only when I got outside in the street under a drizzly rain--it has a subtle powerful buildup of emotional impact. But it's quite a different story. The Garden of the Finzi-Contini ends--also very powerfully, with that amazing lament-- at a point that is only midway in the story the "The Pianist" tells. They're all different. But the power of "The Pianist" is tremendous, because of its rather comprehensive picture of the Holocaust (except for the main thing, the extermination camps!) and its focus on one Jewish adult survivor who was there through it all in a major city that is being destroyed brick by brick. The material is familiar to all of us, in a sense, and also, in a sense, unknown to all but a very, very few of us who cannot imagine what it was really like. But even if you have seen all the other films, on the contrary upon reflection this one actually does seem quite fresh and bold, I think.

  7. #22

    Grim's review of "The Pianist"

    I read what Grim said about the reaction of the German audience. It certainly did not speak well for German attitudes toward the Jews or the Holocaust. But I would suggest that the laughing was from unconscious sources, not necessarily from hatred of the Jews, but the laughter of people who are made nervous "nervous laughter," which is not glee, but disturbance. It was certainly disturbing to see what their German forbears actually did. Tormenting the weak and vulnerable is a childhood tendency, as children torture wounded birds or frogs or helpless turtles. It gives children a feeling of power to be the torturers rather than the tortured, and many children feel tortured when their (German) parents were cruel and punishing. German parents before WWII were given to 'train' their children like dogs, rewarding with food and punishing with whippings and scoldings. The tittering Germans are more to be pitied than scorned.

  8. #23
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    Provocation and misinformation not to be taken seriously

    Before we take William Grim’s story about a German audience of Polanski’s “The Pianist” too seriously, I suggest we take a good look at his writings on the Web such as his wildly fantastic and scandalous “Top 20 Predictions for 2003” (http://www.iconoclast.ca/MainPage.as...=/newPage6.asp) on The Iconoclast, a rightwing satirical site where his latest editorial column starts out “George W. Bush is a cowboy? You're durn tootin' -- and we can all thank God for that.” It’s hard to guess his motives in the “Pianist” piece, but he is an over-imaginative, ultra-conservative writer whose comments are picked up on sites such as www.brassknuckles.net; www.unpopularspeech.net, a site for right-wing pro-gun Jews; and the bluntly named www.rightwingnews. If Grim’s piece about a German audience pops up on the Web on “Pianist” related sites, that may be leading to some unfortunate misunderstandings. There are a great many reactions in Europe to Szpilman’s autobiography that are more relevant to the subject, and it might be better to go simply to the Szpilman book, CD, and movie website (http://www.szpilman.net/index1004273107.html) for some information about the sources of the movie and the reactions to Polanski’s creation. Let's not take this guy Grim seriously, and let's talk about topics truly relevant to the film.

  9. #24

    Grim on "The Pianist"

    Why should we not take Grim's description of the German audience reaction literally? True, what he described can be interpreted various ways, but he is making a point that the German character is never far from Nazism and the Superman mentality. Do you question that opinion? What is your own opinion instead of trashing Grim on the basis of his conservative orientation. Are you saying there is no value to the conservative orientation?

  10. #25
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    Haven't we learned ANYTHING?!

    Let me think: if there is a "German character", there must be a Spanish character and an American one. Who gets to decide what " American character" means? When you refer to a nation's character you are stereotyping, and when you assign negative traits to that character, you are being prejudiced and hateful.

  11. #26
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    Grim fairy tale?

    I was not "trashing" William Grim, but suggesting that his remarks be taken with a healthy grain of salt, given both their import and their provenance. I urge anyone involved in this discussion to read carefully Grim's column, "The Eternal Nazi: Watching Roman Polanski's The Pianist in Germany" (for the text of this column, see http://www.zcportal.com/2002/1202/pianist.asp). I salute Grim's assertion there that The Pianist is "a great film" and I do not quarrel with anything else Grim asserts in the column about the film itself.

    However, what about, in the opening paragraph "There's an old joke that inside every German there's a Nazi yearning to get out. While a gross overstatement, there is, I'm unhappy to report, more than a little truth to that old chestnut"? And what about (midway in the column), "There is something terribly wrong with Germany and the German volk. The German soul is a deep abyss, a fetid, stinking morass that befouls the community of nations"?

    Such remarks, I would suggest, are beyond the fringe, and tend to call into question not only Grim's motives in commenting on the film, but his credibility and judgment as an observer of the Munich audience's reactions to scenes in The Pianist, which the websites where his writings have a home also make one suspicious of. The Internet is a large and open source of information. We have to use all our knowledge and instincts to judge the validity of that information.

    I do indeed question Grim's opinions, and any generalizatons about the "German character" and what it is "never far from," and I think it is unfortunate that he used comments on as fine a film as The Pianist as a springboard for his expressions of suspicion and hate. Even if his observations of laughter during the Munich showing of the film that he attended are accurate, we have no reason to accept his interpretations of them.

    There was a similar incident of laughter by Black school kids in an Oakland, Calififornia theater when Shindler's List was first shown. It was said that they were an expression of hatred and indifference, but upon closer study they turned out to show only confusion and ignorance. At the very least, Grim is guilty of gross oversimplification of reactions that must be very complex for any German, old or young, knowledgable or ignorant, who was watching The Pianist in Munich that day.

  12. #27

    THE GERMAN CHARACTER

    Chris Knipp is quite correct that there is no German character, that the whole concept tends to stereotyping and bigotry. That said, it must be admitted that there remains in Germany a deep core of resentment about their defeat in WWII and an undercurrent of regret that the FINAL SOLUTION was not completely carried out. There is a long history in Germany of anti-Semitism, despite a short period of time in which German Jews were lulled into a false confidence that they were truly assimilated as Germans. The Nazi regime ended that fantasy. The undercurrent of German arrogance and superiority has never disappeared and now the revival of anti-Semitism is well-documented.

    That said, Germany has been generous and cooperative in reparations to Holocaust survivors and support of Israel, at least until recently. The youth of Germany admirably keeps the diary and story of Anne Frank alive, and in Berlin there is a new Holocaust Memorial Museum. Germany has searched its soul, no doubt, but I think the search must be ongoing.

    The American character is free, spontaneous and generous. The Spanish character is romantic and musical, with touches of the bullfight and flamenco.
    The Italian character is... the Greek character is... the French character is...

  13. #28
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    That's simply nonsense, and toning it down doesn't make it any more coherent.

  14. #29

    Incoherent or ironic?

    You don't recognize irony when you see it, unfortunately!

  15. #30
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    Sorry. This is not a medium in which irony flourishes.

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