Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thoughts on 'The Pianist'

I finally rented The Pianist thanks to Netflix. I had some reservations about sitting through it despite the fact that I heard great things and I enjoy good period films. The first major reason was more an ethical one having to do with avoiding stuff by Roman Polanski, who I personally think should be in prison.

That issue aside, Adrien Brody did a very good job acting. During the last half of the movie, Brody's role became almost a silent movie role as there was very little dialogue. He won an Oscar for the role, and I think he deserved it.

I mainly put off seeing it for two reasons. One was that Holocaust movies are always emotionally draining and in some cases straight out emotionally manipulative. I, also, always fear a few things going into World War II movies, Holocaust themes especially, as movies are out to make money. I think making money off the brutality of the Holocaust is just wrong. Likewise, I fear that if I somehow say something against the movie, I come off as petty by demeaning the horrible event that the movie is portraying.

This movie was not quite as draining as, say, Schindler's List, but The Pianist had some shockingly graphic scenes of German brutality. I sometimes wonder if Hollywood keeps doing movies like this just to see how far they can push graphic violence and still feel snobbish enough to label it a 'film.' I think The Pianist did a good job of not going overboard in that regard. The film did get an 'R' rating for good reason. This is not a movie you would particularly rent for a date and popcorn.

While impressive in the field of cinematography, there are just so many scenes a person can sit through of Brody living in isolation or wandering about aimlessly in the midst of a war zone before the scenes start blurring together and getting redundant. I thought that the movie did go on a bit too long on that count. I have never quite grasped why Hollywood can no longer seem to make a quality film under 2 hours in length (Lord of the Rings being the exception to that). The only reason I can figure is that since we are paying so much to see films, they expect we want our money's worth.

Just on the strength of the acting, I am going to give it a 4 and half. Had the movie been somewhat more brief and the ending a bit more poignant, it could have been a five.


Beth said...

I've heard you make similar comments about "making money" off particular things before. I'm curious: where does the role of Making Art fit in for you?

The Archer of the Forest said...

I will have to think on this question some more, but my initial reaction would be to ask the same question I would ask a minister who makes $100000+ a year: "What is your motive?" Is the reason you are doing this to make money or is there a higher purpose? Are you doing X (making art or preaching the gospel, etc) just for the money? Having heard some interviews with Roman Polanski, I am inclined to believe the money factor.

If they answer by saying the motto of MGM studios "ars gratia artis" (art for art's sake), then my second criteria question would be, "OK, so you've done it for a higher purpose, are you going to do any good with your money?" You show me your faith and I'll show you my works kind of thing.

I have no problem with capitalism, don't get me wrong. But with prosperity comes responsiblity. Have you given any of it back to the community or to some Holocaust survivor's charity or even to some actor's studio for real artists who need the money? Or are you just going to be another hypocritical Hollywood flake who makes money off violence and real tragedy and buys drugs, a new BMW Z4, and a $20 million home in Malibu.

I guess, going in a different direction, my real problem is profiteering off the suffering of others and calling it 'art.' I've been to Treblinka (I think I am spelling that right) and the Holy Land. I was horrified because they had turned it into essentially a commercial theme park. People were selling mugs and trinkets all over the place, and it was disgusting.

I guess I am sort of at the point of saturation. A further question I might ask Hollywood is, "When is enough of a genre enough?" Was there anything really new or groundbreaking in The Pianist that has not been done before in other Holocaust movies? Did we really need another King Kong or 6 Star Wars movies? I think Hollywood is running out of originality and shrouding their dreadful remakes in the "making art" facade. Making Art is almost cliche. Porno makers claim that. I guess my final question to Beth is, What does 'making art' mean to anybody. One man's art is another man's garbage. Its a blanket term that is thrown around, and it doesn't really mean anything. It just sort of exists as a conversation stopper. "Well, I'm making art" and so I can look down my nose at you if you don't think its art. There is no real meaning to the term.