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THE PIANIST

"It's Roman Polanski's strongest and most personally felt movie. This should not come as a great surprise, since as a child Polanski survived the KrakU^w ghetto and lost family members in the Holocaust. The real surprise is that the horrors on display in 'The Pianist' are presented matter-of-factly--which of course makes them seem even more horrific...At times, the tension between the unwavering directness of his technique and the anguish that is behind it is almost unbearable. When we see a Nazi soldier casually shoot a Jewish girl in the head for asking an innocent question, or when we see soldiers throw an old man in a wheelchair over a balcony, we are staring into an everyday inferno... In 'The Pianist,' suffering is seen with such clarity that its relief becomes a balm of the greatest magnitude. It's the relief we get when Szpilman plays the piano again, or merely makes it through another day. In moments like these, we are confronted with the significance, the momentousness, of the ordinary." -- Peter Rainer, New York

"I must report that during the screening of the movie, I felt an excruciating sensation of helplessness and hopelessness, as if the Holocaust were still about to happen, and the poor wretches on the screen could not begin to anticipate the totality of the event...What makes 'The Pianist' authentically Polanskian is the absurdist detachment of the artist who keeps practicing his art even when the world is crumbling around him...Mr. Polanski is in his element here: alone, abandoned, but still consoled by his art, which is more than he has ever revealed before about the source of his spiritual survival." -- Andrew Sarris, The New York Observer

"Mr. Polanski, who was a Jewish child in Krakow when the Germans arrived in September 1939, presents Szpilman's story with bleak, acid humor and with a ruthless objectivity that encompasses both cynicism and compassion. When death is at once so systematically and so capriciously dispensed, survival becomes a kind of joke. By the end of the film, Szpilman, brilliantly played by Adrien Brody, comes to resemble one of Samuel Beckett's gaunt existential clowns, shambling through a barren, bombed-out landscape clutching a jar of pickles. He is like the walking punchline to a cosmic jest of unfathomable cruelty...This is certainly the best work Mr. Polanski has done in many years." -- A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"Polanski, who escaped the Krakow ghetto when he was a child, has spent his entire filmmaking career making movies that, steeped in alienation and paranoia, carry traces of the Holocaust. This time, faced with the historical event, he tempers his style, and the alienation and paranoia creep in from the outside, unescorted and relentless...In his book and in Polanski's telling, the musician's tortuous journey is neither triumphant nor beautiful; it is, rather, a testament to the essential human desire to live." -- Manohla Dargis, The Los Angeles Times

"Adrien Brody gives a magnificent performance as the refined musician who sinks lower and lower as the war wears on. Toward the end, he is reduced to something out of a pathetic silent comedy...Polanski films the story in a dry-eyed way that goes for the telling detail rather than the melodrama. He shows the small grotesqueries of daily life in the ghetto...Polanski, working in Poland after an absence of 40 years, constructs an indelibly vivid picture of the city." -- Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News