DRAMA THE PIANIST (15) 149min 0.0

Undoubtedly a brave and ambitious project, but...

An intensely personal film from acclaimed Polish director Roman Polanski, as he survived the Krakow ghetto, The Pianist follows the persecution of the Jews in Warsaw during World War II. Stripped of their basic human rights and branded by Star of David armbands, a population of 300,000 were walled into a designated Jewish district where they were subject to disease, starvation and random killings. The majority were then moved to the nearby Treblinka extermination camp and when the Germans retreated in January 1945, only 20 Jews were left alive in the city. This number included brilliant Polish pianist,

Wladyslaw Szpilman.

We first encounter Szpilman (Adrien Brody) at his job at the Polish state radio station in Warsaw, playing Chopin’s Nocturne in D minor. The building is bombed and he rushes home to his family, including a brother, two sisters, his father and his long-suffering mother (played somewhat stereotypically by British actress Maureen Lipman). Although now banned from most public amenities, Szpilman pursues a love affair with a gentile (Emilia Fox) while his family assumes that the absurd treatment of the Jews ‘will not last Iong’. Indeed it doesn’t, for, as a steady flash of significant dates stream across the screen, the Jews are moved to the ghetto and then on to their deaths at Treblinka. Szpilman escapes deportation and the majority of the film is then dedicated to his lonely search for survival in the wasteland that’s left of Warsaw, a search that culminates in his returning to the radio station six years later to complete his performance of

the same Chopin Nocturne.

Adapted from Szpilman’s memoirs and making use of Polanski’s own childhood memories, The Pianist is undoubtedly a brave and ambitious project. Although rewarded by its winning the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, it is, however, debatable whether this film won on its worthiness rather than it being

a coherent and compelling narrative.

At just under two-and-a-half hours long, it feels considerably longer. Roles are romanticised and save for a few stunning set pieces, there is nothing spectacular in the cinematography. As Szpilman moves from hideout to hideout, the film steadily loses the interest of the audience with the result that you greet, albeit with a guilty sigh of relief, the end of the war and the pianist’s return to the ivories. (Catherine Bromley)

I General release from Fri 24 Jan.



(12A) 96min O...

No one on this God given earth makes films like Aki Kaurismaki. It's those static scenes of stilted dialogue. all that cod rock'n‘roll music and those deliciously satisfying whimSical endings. Now. after three years the maestro is back With another slice of comic repression to drain the tears and hope from you.

When M gets off a train in Helsinki he is immediately mugged in a park. After being declared dead in a hospital he arises and stumbles into the poverty-ravaged area of the city around the container ports. Robbed of his memory thr0ugh amnesia. it takes love. losers and the Salvation Army help him find his way back to the man he thinks he may have once been.

Deathly lbut deftly) paced. this is

the dark third installment of a series of loosely connected Kaurismaki films that started with Ariel in 1988 and continued with The Match Factory Girl in 1989. All these films share a refreshing sense of hopelessness and yet a belief in the redemption of poverty. Kaurismaki has equipped himself with a formidable lead in Markku Peltola. and there is a superb

Comic repression

cameo from Matti Wuori as a solicitor. Kaurismaki's regular cinematographer Timo Salminen does another great job of filling every corner of his frames with drabness and deSpair. A shot of colic in the arm of most romantic comedies. (Paul Dale)

I Fi/nihouse. Edinburgh from Fri 24 Jan; GFT. Glasgow from Fri 7 Feb. See preview, page 20.

g. E”? '\ .5 m


DRAMA 8 MILE (15) 110min oo

On the face of it. this film is a promising proposition. Directed by Academy Award winner Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential and Wonder Boys). shot by hip Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros) and featuring the big screen debut of white boy rapper Eminem in a semi-autobiographical tale about his rise to stardom. critics Stateside have certainly been quick to celebrate the film and the acting prowess of its star. Don't believe the hype. th0ugh. because 8 Mile refuses to live up to it.

For a start the film's plot is sparse to say the least. Jimmy 'Bunny Rabbit' Smith Jr (Eminem) wants to escape the poor white trash existence he shares with his mother (Kim Basinger) and young sister. living in a trailer park oft Eight Mile Road. a symbolic street that separates the black and white districts of DetrOit. Motor City. To do this. he must stop talking shit with his mates in the Three One Third crew and having run-ins with rival rap posse the Free World and instead show his worth as a battle MC at local hip hop joint. The Shelter. The film starts and ends at The Shelter. At the beginning he chokes on stage. at the end he doesn't.

Don’t believe the hype

Somehow. this is supposed to read like a hip hop version of Rocky. Except there's no meat in the pie. The exploits of the Three One Third crew are boring beyond belief. to the extent that yOu'd probably get more entertainment watching your own neighbourhood hoodlums hanging outside the local oft- licence. Eminem's performance consists of his alternating between directionless rage and sensitive big brother to his cute. blond little sister. while QOrgeous Kim Basinger is monumentally miscast as the alcoholic “bad mother‘.

Disappointingly. all this adds up to Eminem presenting a sanitised version of himself as plucky underdog turned pedigree champ. Hanson. ii'ieanwhile. has set himself back a few years by proving that he is only the latest in a long line of grifters out to milk the cash cow of rap Culture. (Catherine Bromley) I General release from Fri 77 Jan. See feature. page 74.

16-30 Jan 2003 THE “31' 21