Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Credit This One

Here's one:  Adrien Brody.

In The Pianist, he's Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jew in Nazi-ruled Poland, a man socially restricted and marginalized, his family sent off to their death in camps, he himself for years hidden in Warsaw. 

No film can handle the reality of such powerlessness and brutality.  This film, by Roman Polanski, himself a boy in Warsaw then, suggests the accidentalness, the luck, involved.  The world around is being destroyed.  It's Brody's sensitivity and quiet that holds his sanity in place.  

And it's his music (not to be blithe about the mega-death of that war) that suggests some kind of transformative value to it all.

We're still working that out.  Hence, the actual Szpilman performing for years afterward.  Hence, Polanski with his deeply ironic cinema.  Hence, the much younger Brody channeling that experience for us.



  1. When i saw this film i appreciated his bias of bringing out the capacity of an artist to fly over sordidness, it is original and effective by the power of suggestion, but infront of this noble soul, most of the artists collaborated or died,everybody can't avoid compromise.

  2. The randomness of it all is never so evident as during a war. The existence of one of my most cherished friends owes itself to a random, almost freakish, act of luck in Nazi occupied Paris during WWII. The whole numerous Jewish family was first deported to Drancy, from where my friend's mother managed to escape, and from there to Auschwitz where they all died. How haunting to be the sole survivor of a family.

    I'm not familiar with Szpilman's work, but it must surely carry this trauma. The interpretation of Chopin's Nocturne is very moving.

    I haven't seen The Pianist. When it came out I couldn't handle any more pain. I hope to be able to watch it soon.

  3. orfeenix,

    Yes. Yes. The Szpilman shown here endured. Polanski's film -- he not afraid of handling moments in sardonic ways -- does have the expressiveness of art separate itself from the horror, try to make sense of it or keep itself whole until it can flourish again.

    But it's no secret that many artists escaped Europe or collaborated or at least 'kept as low a profile' as they could.

    Some Americans have judged Europe for what they consider that murky kind of compromise.

    We haven't yet been put to the test. In the domestic world of our daily lives, I see moral compromise all the time. All the time. Whole career paths are built on it.

    To think that America's 'moral fiber' is somehow distinct from that of others is part of our myth.

    Talking about this would categorize me here as a pessimist. I simply see and 'get it'.


  4. Claudia,

    It became almost a joke at the expense of our own weakness, between my friend and me, about how many times we rented the DVD and held it beyond the rental fee point before returning it.

    Years passed. I watched. Beyond my praise of Brody -- Polanski. That's another set of entries.

    I must have been on a 'Holocaust kick', because around the same time I watched that mega-mini-series from the 80s Winds of War and War and Remembrance, some entries on this blog already about those.

    I thought I had felt all that I would, and it's a surprise that even the TV workup of a Herman Wouk novel would get to me.

    Painstaking 'daily life' stuff from 'aus Auschwitz' and other harrowing steps along the way.

    It's still reverberating.

    What protection? Anywhere.


  5. No one but Brody would have been so absolutely proper for this film. There is a quiet and solemn strength in his eyes. The power of Roman Polanski in interpreting this horrific time through music and innuendo was superb. Yes, we are still working out Polanski, but I do feel he has redeemed himself through this particular artful presentation. When is there enough penance?

  6. Cher,

    Yes. I guess we are still working out Polanski, along the lines of your own recent post about celebrity 'shlongs'.

    The working-out that's harder is how can 'we', our 'civilized world' have done something so methodically brutal as the Holocaust and WWII? It was a madness.

    All these wars are failures to contain the beast within. Wow. Why aren't there enough with -- as you wonderfully put it -- "quiet and solemn strength"?

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  8. Lydia,

    Thanks for coming by. I will definitely check it out!