[MOVIE REVIEW]Polanski's latest film hits all the right notes

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Polanski's latest film hits all the right notes

Chekhov once said that a gun on the wall in the first act of a play will have been fired by the third. The same could be said for the piano in Roman Polanski's latest film, "The Pianist," which won the Palme d'Or this year at Cannes.

In a season full of wizards, goblins and secret agents, it's refreshing to be reminded that movies can be something bigger, more substantial and more important.

In one of his best films ever, Mr. Polanski presents the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a gifted pianist living in Warsaw when the Germans invaded in 1939.

Wladyslaw is playing a Chopin Nocturne live in a Polish Radio studio when the bombs start falling. He tries to keep playing through the mayhem, but it quickly becomes too dangerous, and nearby explosions rock the building and force him to run home.

The Szpilman family is Jewish and soon finds itself rounded up and resettled in the Jewish ghetto by the Nazis.

Their hopes brighten when they hear that France and England will go to war. "All will be well," says Wladyslaw's father, so very incorrectly.

Initially, no one in the ghetto thinks that life can get worse. But day by day all are proven wrong. The richer people, who are able to use their money to insulate themselves from the worst of their oppressions, soon find the limits to their money. Others choose collaboration with the Nazis, becoming the local law enforcement; they get food and safety in exchange for their souls.

Wladyslaw, led by his love of music tries to chart a middle path through the worst of it all.

But when the Nazis start shipping people to concentration camps on freight trains, he realizes that he must do something. Many of the younger, more noble-minded consider rebellion. Wladyslaw wants to help, but is torn by his musical heart.

He eventually decides to flee, not fight, and finds a way out of the ghetto. But living in German-occupied Warsaw is no easy thing. As the war drags on, survival becomes ever more difficult.

This is no relentlessly depressing Holocaust story. While the subject of this film is certainly a serious one, it is ultimately an upbeat movie, at times even humorous.

Perhaps because Mr. Polanski was born in Poland and his mother died in a concentration camp, he has created a film with more vitality than anything he has done since "Chinatown" in 1974.

The colors are lush and beautiful and each shot is exquisitely laid out. The sound impresses, too. With the music performed by Janusz Olej-niczak, the piano solos in "The Pianist" are first rate.

Although some of the dialogue is in German, the prints in Korea have English subtitles, so comprehension is no problem.

by Mark Russell

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