Showing posts with label Holocaust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holocaust. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Review: "THE EQUALIZER 2" is Brutal and Personal

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 of 2023 (No. 1929) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Running time:  121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content
DIRECTOR:  Antoine Fuqua
WRITER:  Richard Wenk (based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim)
PRODUCERS:  Antoine Fuqua, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin, Michael Sloan, Steve Tisch, and Denzel Washington
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Oliver Wood (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
COMPOSER:  Harry Gregson-Williams


Starring:  Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Orson Bean, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Jonathan Scarfe, Kazy Tauginas, Garrett A. Golden, and Sakina Jaffrey

The Equalizer 2 is a 2018 action movie and crime thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.  It is a sequel to the 2014 film, The Equalizer.”  Both films are based on the television series, “The Equalizer,” which was created by  Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim and was originally broadcast on CBS from 1985 to 1989.  The Equalizer 2 finds Robert McCall out to make the people who murdered someone he loves pay for their crimes with their lives.

The Equalizer 2 opens on a train headed to Istanbul, Turkey.  Robert “Bob” McCall (Denzel Washington) is about to serve his unflinching brand of justice on man who kidnapped his daughter in order to punish his ex-wife.  McCall still lives quietly in Boston, where he works as a Lyft driver and assists the less fortunate, the exploited, and the oppressed.  Among the people he is currently helping include Samuel “Sam” Rubinstein (Orson Bean), a Holocaust survivor trying to recover a painting of his sister, Magda, who died in a Nazi death camp.  Lately, he has taken an interest in Miles (Ashton Sanders), a troubled African-American teen who lives in the same apartment building.  Miles has tremendous artistic talent, but he is also being recruited by a violent, drug-dealing street gang.

However, the big action is in Brussels, Belgium.  There, Robert's friend and former DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) colleague, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is investigating the apparent murder-suicide of DIA “agency affiliate” and his wife.  That investigation costs Susan her life.  McCall begins investigating Susan's murder with the assistance of her colleague and his former DIA teammate, Dave York (Pedro Pascal).  Determined to avenge Susan's murder, McCall will have to go deep into his past and risk endangering people very close to him.

With his Oscar-winning turn in 2001's Training Day, Denzel Washington proved to be a convincing bad guy.  With 2010's The Book of Eli, Washington showed that he could be a bad-ass, kick-ass, action hero with fancy martial arts-styled moves.  The first take on The Equalizer allowed Washington to blend hero and anti-hero in a visceral mix.  So in anticipation of The Equalizer 3, I decided to see The Equalizer 2, of which I have seen bits and pieces on television over the past few years.

In the original film, the screenplay by Richard Wenk had McCall constantly in peril or made it seem as if he were in danger even when he was not.  Wenk returns for the sequel and delivers a script that adds compassion to the standard revenge thriller.  McCall can be a gentle soul helping a teen go through growing pains that are filled with danger, and he can lend a kind ear to an old man whose current quest could be the real thing or the result of a failing memory crashing from the accumulation of data over a long life.  On the other hand, McCall will also break a mutha down to the blood and bone if he deserves such a reckoning, even if it means killing him.

The Equalizer would be a standard revenge thriller if its avenger were portrayed by just any other movie star, but Denzel Washington is a consummate professional and charismatic actor.  That means he can deliver the meat and potatoes and the art to every performance – whether it is Shakespeare on stage or Hollywood entertainment product destined for the multiplex.  In this second film, Washington super-charges his performance in order to make the personal so personal that it is murderous. 

Director Antoine Fuqua plays Washington's skills for everything he can get out of this brilliant actor.  Fuqua is an impressive director in his own right, especially when it comes to dark, violent, dramatic thrillers, such as Shooter (2007).  Together, Fuqua and Washington deliver in The Equalizer 2 a film that slightly surpasses the original.  I find myself endlessly fascinated by it because The Equalizer 2 is a really good thriller.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review: "SON OF SAUL" is Powerful and Unforgettable

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 of 2021 (No. 1763) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Son of Saul (2015)
Saul fia – original title
Country:  Hungary

Running time:  107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for disturbing violent content, and some graphic nudity
DIRECTOR:  Laszlo Nemes
WRITERS:  Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer
PRODUCERS:  Gábor Rajna and Gábor Sipos
EDITOR:  Matthieu Taponier
COMPOSER:  Melis László
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn,Todd Charmont, Jerzy Walczak, Sandor Zsoter, Istvan Pion, Amitai Kedar, Juli Jakab, Gergo Farkas and Balazs Farkas

Son of Saul or Saul fia (original title) is a 2015 Hungarian historical drama from director Laszlo Nemes.  The film is set in a concentration camp and focuses on a prisoner who tries to save his son's body from the crematorium.  The film won the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film of 2015.”

Son of Saul opens in the Nazi extermination camp, Auschwitz, in October 1944Jewish-Hungarian prisoner, Saul Ausländer (Geza Rorig), is a member of Sonderkommando.  This unit is made of Jewish prisoners who herd other Jews into the showers where they will be gassed to death.  Afterwards, Saul and the other Sonderkommando remove valuables from the clothes of the dead, drag the dead from the gas chambers to the crematoria so they can be burned, and finally clean the killing floors.

Saul carries out his dreadful task with a stoic and impassive expression upon his face.  One day, however, Saul recognizes a boy removed from the gas chambers.  He believes the boy is his son, so he begins a desperate, furtive campaign to save his son's body from the flames of the crematoria.

I have seen many films and television programs that are partially set in concentration camps and films that directly or indirectly concern the Holocaust.  I think that Son of Saul is only one of a few films that I have seen that are set entirely or almost entirely in a Nazi extermination camps.  The most obvious example is the Oscar-winning Schindler's List, which was directed by Steven Spielberg.  In some ways, Spielberg presented Schindler's List as if it were something out of time, a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood, in terms of acting and staging.

With Son of Saul, director Laszlo Nemes makes no attempt at the artifice of prestige Hollywood cinema.  Stylistic and stylish choices are used to make clear to the audience that the situation in which Saul Auslander lives is entirely bleak and without hope.  This Nazi machine to kill Jews that we call the Holocaust is an industry, and its factory workers are dead men and women walking.  You do whatever you need to get the job done, even if you have to shoot prisoners one by one and dump their bodies in pits because the machinery is temporarily clogged or the backlog of those to be processed is too long.

Saul's desperate plot to save the boy-who-could-be-his-son's body is only that – an act of desperation.  It is something a dead man does so that at least one of his last gasps will taste sweet.  Saul and practically all the other Jewish prisoners are already dead.

Son of Saul is a damning work of art.  This is high art as a cave painting on the consciousness of lovers of cinema and movie buffs.  Son of Saul is a recreation... or is it a reminder of a time so terrible that it haunts the past, present, and future of our species.

9 of 10

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (Hungary)

2016 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Hungary)

2015 Cannes Film Festival:  4 wins: “FIPRESCI Prize-Competition” (László Nemes), “François Chalais Award” (László Nemes), “Grand Prize of the Jury” (László Nemes), and “Vulcain Prize for the Technical Artist” (Tamás Zányi-sound designer for the outstanding contribution of sound to the narration.)
; 2 nominations:  “Golden Camera” (László Nemes) and “Palme d'Or” (László Nemes)

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: "De Tweeling" (Twin Sisters) a Powerful Sister Act

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

De Tweeling (2002)
Twin Sisters – English title
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Netherlands and Luxembourg; Language:  Dutch, German and English
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – R for a brief sexuality and a scene of violence
DIRECTOR:  Ben Sombogaart
WRITER:  Marieke van der Pol (based upon the novel by Tessa de Loo)
PRODUCERS:  Hanneke Niens and Anton Smit
EDITOR:  Herman P. Koerts
COMPOSER:  Fons Merkies
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Nadja Uhl, Thekla Reuten, Gudrun Okras, Ellen Vogel, Sina Richardt, Julia Koopmans, Jeroen Spitzenberger Betty Schuurman, Jaap Spijkers, Roman Knizka, Margarita Broich, and Hans Somers

The subject of this movie review is De Tweeling (Twin Sisters), a 2002 Dutch drama, romance, and war movie from director Ben Sombogaart.  The film is based on the 1993 novel, De Tweeling, by Tessa de Loo.  The film received a theatrical release in the United States in May 2005.

De Tweeling or Twin Sisters earned a 2004 Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” (Netherlands).  The film opens in 1925 and introduces us to German twin sisters, Anna (Sina Richardt) and Lotte (Julia Koopmans), who live with their well to do, widower father.  When he dies of consumption in 1926, competing relatives with different agendas separate the girls.  Anna remains in Germany on her uncle’s farm where he basically uses her as cheap labor.  A rich aunt and uncle take Lotte to Holland, where she lives a privileged life of culture, education, and opportunity.

The bulk of the story takes place between 1936 and 1947, when the sisters, now young women find themselves on opposite sides of World War II.  The young adult Anna (Nadja Uhl) marries a young Austrian soldier, Martin (Roman Knizka), who goes on to become an SS officer.  The young adult Lotte (Thekla Reuten) falls in love with a Jewish musician, David (Jeroen Spitzenberger), who ends up in a concentration camp.  The film later finds the sisters estranged from one another as old ladies, with Old Anne (Gudrun Okras) trying to reconcile her differences with Old Lotte (Ellen Vogel).

Twin Sisters is a compelling drama that is at its heart a bittersweet romance about two sisters who dearly love each other, but find that not only are their home countries at odds, but also their choice in lovers.  Indeed, the sisters’ lives during WWII are the center of this tale with the sequences involving Anne and Lotte as old women being nothing more than TV movie-of-the-week melodrama.  The opening segment with the sisters as six-year olds is sentimental and darkly sweet, while being something like a surreal and tragic fairy tale of kidnapped princes.

The film seems to jump around too much, but director Ben Sombogaart and writer Marieke van der Pol do their best work chronicling the sisters’ painfully desperate attempt to hold onto their lovers.  That’s the film right there, and although this adapts a novel, the movie should have focused exclusively, except for maybe a framing sequence, on the sisters as young women.  Here is the best acting both on the part of the actresses playing the sisters and the supporting cast portraying their family, friends, and acquaintances.  The horror the Holocaust creeps around the edges of the film here giving it a solid dramatic impact.  The tenuous relationship of the sisters at this point makes compelling drama – almost compelling enough to make you forget there aren’t enough of the best parts of Twin Sisters.

7 of 10

Friday, February 03, 2006

2004 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Netherlands)

Updated:  Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: "Schindler's List" is Fine Art

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Schindler’s List (1993) – B&W with color segments
Running time: 194 minutes (3 hour, 14 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some sexuality and actuality violence
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITER: Steven Zaillian (from the novel by Thomas Keneally)
PRODUCERS: Gerald R. Molen, Branko Lustig, and Spielberg
EDITOR: Michael Kahn, A.C.E.
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/WAR with elements of thriller

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, and Embeth Davidtz

When Steven Spielberg finally won his Oscar for “Best Director,” he also picked up an additional statue as a producer when Schindler’s List won the “Best Picture” of 1993. Schindler’s List is without a doubt one of the greatest films of the last quarter of the 20th century, and it is also truly film as art.

The film’s title character is the real life Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a member of the Nazi Party and a war profiteer. The Czech-born, German businessman made his fortune exploiting cheap Jewish labor in German-occupied Poland. As World War II progresses, Schindler grows more horrified as the Nazi’s step up the process of exterminating Jews, especially after he witnesses the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto in 1943. He convinces a barbaric German commander, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), to let him have the 1100 Polish Jews he has on a list he created with his longtime partner and Jewish prisoner, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley). This group of Jews are scheduled to be gassed at Auschwitz, but he is allowed to use them to operate a munitions factory at Brinnlitz. The second half of the film follows Schindler as he lavishly spends his fortune on bribes, parties, and gifts on important German officials who will tolerate him using Jewish workers. Schindler’s Jews and their benefactor struggle to stay alive as Germany steadily loses the war because it is at this point that Germany begins to try to hide evidence of the Holocaust.

Although many have criticized the film for being overly-sentimental, propagandistic, and historically inaccurate (Oskar Schindler may have been less charitable and more opportunistic in his quest to save the Jews, and Jewish prisoners may have had to pay their way onto the list, according to some), Schindler’s List is nevertheless a very powerful film. It resonates more than just emotionally and is also a very well made film. In fact, Spielberg’s mixture of classic Hollywood style, black and white photography, and a documentary-like directing technique make for a inimitable and distinctive film. Whenever the film narrative turns to Liam Neeson’s Schindler, Spielberg frames the character as if Schindler were in an archetypal 1940’s Hollywood film noir. When chronicling the Germans’ brutality against the Jews, Spielberg creates a raw, visceral, and immediate art splashed on the wide canvas of a world simultaneously real and dreamlike.

It’s a bravura effort from one of the great film helmsmen. Spielberg makes a compelling film that you can’t help but watch even as he brazenly displays the monstrous cruelty of Germans. Still, that is the way Spielberg emphasizes that the Germans considered their Jewish slaves and prisoners to have no future, that they were merely the tattered remains of a history already forgotten.

It’s a shame Neeson did not win the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Oscar that year, losing to Tom Hanks. In many ways, Neeson is as important to the film as Spielberg. Schindler is both the foundation upon which this story is built and the axis upon which it turns. Neeson recognizes the faults of the man and subtly pushes Schindler’s less than savory attributes to the surface. He makes him more human than hero. Neeson conveys the sense that there is always something else going on in Schindler’s mind, something quite different from what he tells his friends and adversaries. An actor giving a character that much verisimilitude is rare. That Neeson can make the sly, sneaky, and recklessly flawed Schindler so engaging and intriguing is itself a work of art.

10 of 10

1994 Academy Awards: 7 wins: “Best Picture” (Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, and Branko Lustig), “Best Director” (Steven Spielberg), “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Steven Zaillian), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Allan Starski and Ewa Braun), “Best Cinematography” (Janusz Kaminski), and “Best Film Editing” (Michael Kahn), “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams); 5 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Liam Neeson), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ralph Fiennes), “Best Costume Design” (Anna B. Sheppard), “Best Makeup” (Christina Smith, Matthew W. Mungle, and Judith A. Cory), “Best Sound” (Andy Nelson, Steve Pederson, Scott Millan, and Ron Judkins)

1994 BAFTA Awards: 7 wins: Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ralph Fiennes), “Best Cinematography” (Janusz Kaminski), “Best Editing” (Michael Kahn), “Best Film” (Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, and Branko Lustig), “Best Score” (John Williams), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Steven Zaillian), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Steven Spielberg); 6 nominations: “Best Actor” (Liam Neeson), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ben Kingsley), “Best Costume Design” (Anna B. Sheppard), “Best Make Up Artist” (Christina Smith, Matthew W. Mungle, Waldemar Pokromski, and Pauline Heys), “Best Production Design” (Allan Starski), and “Best Sound” (Charles L. Campbell, Louis L. Edemann, Robert Jackson, Ron Judkins, Andy Nelson, Steve Pederson, and Scott Millan)

1994 Golden Globes: 3 wins: Best Director - Motion Picture (Steven Spielberg), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Steven Zaillian); 3 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (John Williams), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Liam Neeson), and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Ralph Fiennes)

2004 National Film Preservation Board: National Film Registry


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: "The Debt" is Good, But Unfocused

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Debt (2011)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – R for some violence and language
DIRECTOR: John Madden
WRITERS: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Peter Straughan (based on the film, Ha-Hov, by Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum)
PRODUCERS: Eitan Evan, Eduardo Rossoff, Kris Thykier, and Matthew Vaughn
EDITORS: Alexander Berner
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman


Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Martin Csokas, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia, and István Goz

The Debt is a 2011 drama and espionage thriller from director John Madden. It is a remake of a 2007 film (directed by Assaf Bernstein) of the same name from Israel. In the 2011 film, a former Mossad intelligence agent relives a 1965 mission in which she and two other agents pursued a Nazi war criminal. At times quite riveting, The Debt often comes across as a broken movie because it tries to be different things at different times in the story.

In 1997, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), a former Mossad agent, and her ex-husband, Stefan Gold (Tom Wilkinson), who is still a Mossad agent, are celebrating a new book written by their daughter, Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia). Sarah’s book recounts a 1965 mission in which Rachel, Stefan, and another former Mossad agent, David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds), pursued a notorious Nazi war criminal. The trio targeted Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), infamously known as “the Surgeon of Birkenau,” believed to be living in East Berlin.

The story flashes back to 1965 where we meet the younger versions of the trio: Rachel (Jessica Chastain), Stefan (Martin Csokas), and David (Sam Worthington). They find Vogel living as “Doktor Bernhardt” and operating an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in East Berlin. The team’s mission was eventually accomplished, or was it? Rachel must confront her past when two figures from it reemerge.

The Debt takes place across two different time periods, which I think inhibits the movie from sustaining suspense or building character relationships with any traction. The Debt certainly has potent moments, and the last act is a killer suspense thriller. Of course, any movie starring Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson would, at least, be interesting. I’m down to see anything with Mirren, and she doesn’t disappoint – once again, I mention that last act of this movie.

I see The Debt as a broken movie because it is really two films – one that takes place in 1965 and the other in 1997 – instead of being one complete narrative. That is what can happen to a movie that has so many flashbacks that it seems as if they are half the film. The Debt is good, but it would have better by focusing on 1965 or 1997 – not both.

5 of 10

Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: "Seven Beauties" is Fine Cinema (Happy B'day, Giancarlo Giannini)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 37 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Seven Beauties (1975)
Pasqualino Settebellezze – original Italian title
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Lina Wertmüller
PRODUCERS: Arrigo Colombo and Lina Wertmüller
EDITOR: Franco Fraticelli
COMPOSER: Enzo Jannacci
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, Shirley Stoler, Elena Fiore, Piero Di Iorio, Enzo Vitale, Roberto Herlitzka, Lucio Amelio, and Ermelinda De Felice

In Pasqualino Settebellezze or (by its English title) Seven Beauties, Pasqualino Frafusco (Giancarlo Giannini) is a small time crook and hood wannabe who lives in Naples with his mother and seven sisters. As the movie begins, Pasqualino and a fellow soldier (Piero Di Iorio) are lost behind enemy lines, somewhere in Germany, during World War II. German soldiers eventually capture the duo, and they are interned in some kind of prisoner camp (which may also double as a concentration camp for Jews).

Because he has by his own estimation always been a ladies man, Pasqualino decides on a plan to woo an evil female German commandant (Shirley Stoler) in an attempt to save his life, a plan that of course goes horribly awry. Pasqualino’s camp trials are interspersed with scenes from his life in Naples and the time he spent in a mental institution for killing a man who he believed had insulted him and his family by turning one of Pasqualino’s sisters into a prostitute.

Seven Beauties earned Lina Wertmüller the first Oscar® nomination for a woman as Best Director. The film is part satirical and part farce, and it’s also a tragicomic drama that focuses on the soul of a common man. Giannini also earned a Best Actor nomination for his performance as a man who sells his body to the Germans and ends up loosing his soul or, at the very least, his spirit to them. Giannini’s performance is one of the great comic masterpieces, but many people may miss this because of the film’s darker tones. Pasqualino is a womanizing clown who thinks he has the world by the balls until the horrors of war and the internment camp show him how brutal people can be to one another. He thought he knew, but his imprisonments really show him how ugly dog eat dog can be.

Seven Beauties might be one of the best films about internment camps, except for the fact that it’s not really about that. Still, the film makes a salient point about the evil, greediness, and selfishness at the core of the human soul. If the film has a fault (and it’s a minor one), it’s that Wertmüller’s script glosses over the impact of Pasqualino’s mother and sisters on him and his character. Otherwise, this is an example of the great cinema Italy has given the world.

8 of 10

1977 Academy Awards: 4 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Giancarlo Giannini), “Best Director” (Lina Wertmüller), “Best Foreign Language Film” (Italy), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Lina Wertmüller)

1977 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Foreign Film” (Italy)


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: "The Pianist" Simply Superb

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 30 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Pianist (2002)
Running time: 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
WRITER: Ronald Harwood (based upon the novel by Wladyslaw Szpilman)
PRODUCERS: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski, and Alain Sarde
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel Edelman (director of photography)
EDITOR: Hervé de Luze
COMPOSER: Wojciech Kilar
Academy Award winner


Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer, and Michal Zebrowski

Director Roman Polanski, writer Ronald Harwood, and actor Adrien Brody all won Oscars® for their work on The Pianist, a film based upon the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish Jew who survived for five years in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. It’s arguably the best non-documentary film about the Holocaust and Jewish oppression at the hands of the Germans after Schindler’s List.

Stylistically, The Pianist is similar to Schindler’s List in that both films visually have an atmosphere of classic cinema from the Golden Age of Hollywood film – the late 1930’s and 1940’s. From a technical aspect, the film is beautifully photographed with a gorgeous color palette that looks luscious even when melancholy gray tones are omnipresent. Also of top caliber are the art direction and set decoration, the costume design, and the original music by Wojciech Kilar.

What else can I say? This film, because of its subject matter, is difficult to watch, but from a filmmaking point of view, The Pianist is near perfect. Everyone deserved their awards and nominations, and Polanski cemented his place as a daring filmmaker willing to take chances and making great films when he succeeds.

If there must be one main reason to see this film, Adrien Brody’s performance is it. He plays Szpilman as both an eternal optimist and as a survivor, and the thing that is most uplifting about this film (which is filled with sorrow and tragedy) is that Szpilman survives. When he’s beaten down to being little more than a pitiful animal and a pathetic human skeleton, he nimbly skirts death’s every blow. Add the beautiful musical performances of Chopin and Beethoven, each one exquisitely staged and shot by Polanski and his cinematographer Pawl Edelman, and a great film is even greater.

9 of 10

2003 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Adrien Brody), “Best Director” (Roman Polanski), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Ronald Harwood); 4 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Pawel Edelman), “Best Costume Design” (Anna B. Sheppard), “Best Editing” (Hervé de Luze), and “Best Picture” (Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Film” (Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, and Alain Sarde) and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Roman Polanski); 5 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Wojciech Kilar), “Best Cinematography” (Pawel Edelman), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Adrien Brody), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Ronald Harwood), and “Best Sound” (Jean-Marie Blondel, Dean Humphreys, and Gérard Hardy)

2003 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Adrien Brody)