Film, music, books, culture, youth and pornography in a country of prudes.

The Pianist

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

Polanski can portray the consequences of unchecked lust. He can explore human nature in all its raw ruthlessness. He can’t do sympathy. Oh, he tries. He pulls most of the tricks you’d expect from a Julia Roberts movie (only, they’re not really tricks, because he’s not jerking us around), and sentimental audiences, I’m sure, wept a bucket (the Oscar win confirms it) but, while it’s true that you can make a good movie on anything if you’re able, Polanski simply belongs out there where the men are savages held back only by the loose parchments that form the local law and where the underside of all cities and people is cold, black, nasty.

The first time I saw the film I wondered if Polanski was making a bid for the Oscars, selling out. But, no, even outside of his area of excellence, Polanski can’t quite manage a bad movie. It’s all there, those unflinching touches you’re used to see from the man; most apparent when the Nazis destroy – no other word for it – acre after acre of both hope and infrastructure. But it lacks what his best films have: the ability to leave you frustrated, irritated, perhaps outraged when you leave the movie hall because what you saw just hit home. Hard. Hearing those famous words in Chinatown; seeing the betrayal stinging Hugh Grant’s face – the things Oprah doesn’t do.

The entire story in two sentences: Nazis happen. One man tries to survive.

We’re supposed to care about him, clearly we are. But I didn’t. And for a movie such as this one, it’s the biggest possible failure. Adrien Brody’s to blame, I suspect. He tries, you can’t say he doesn’t, but he can’t pull it off. He looks the part; he just can’t play it.

Why see it, then? Why, because it’s Polanski, of course! I’ve just about had my fill of war movies (watching Defiance last month made it quite clear), but when I had the chance to see The Pianist again yesterday, I couldn’t refuse it. It gets better the second time, of course, because you’re not expecting greatness. And then you can concentrate on other things, like freezing the frame to marvel at the devastation in all its disrobed beauty.

And the music.


Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 20, 2009 at 10:54 pm

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