Some of the best news in recent movies is that old hands like Robert Altman and Roman Polanski have not, in fact, completely lost it, as you’d guess from crap like Dr. T. and the Women or Ninth Gate. Gosford Park was sublime. I’m glad to find out with The Pianist that Polanski is back to doing some great storytelling through the eyes of a compelling protagonist.
This wasn’t a hit-you-over-the-head Holocaust movie so much as one guy’s story as Warsaw happens around him, usually with him conveniently perched somewhere to see the Greatest Hits of WWII in Poland. But that’s okay, because the feeling I got from the movie was that it was mainly a biography and partly an allegory of Warsaw under the Nazi regime.
As with Chinatown, everything in The Pianist is filtered through the main character’s experience and perception. Adrien Brody is great, going from a naively optimistic young man to a wild-eyed Robinson Crusoe stumbling through the apocalyptic rubble of Warsaw. I’m really glad he won the Academy Award. I hope he works a lot more. He’s got a great awkward striking face, with these wonderfully expressive eyes and smile. He’s like Brandon Frasier without the burden of good looks.
The payoff scene, which you can see coming a mile away, works great. I wish I knew what the piece of music was.
Anyway, I had fairly low expectations that it would be just another Look How Horrible the Holocaust Was movie. Instead, it’s a character driven chronicle of Warsaw. Nice work, Roman. Looking forward to the next one.