Sunday, August 9, 2015

Musical Interludes II: The editor's hell. A few notes on Polanski's The Pianist

In my previous entry I discussed musical performance in Letter From An Unknown Woman, Max Ophüls's 1948 classic about a woman's life-long obsession for a mediocre pianist. In particular, I observed how little realistic the scenes with Louis Jourdan at the piano were  a strange thing indeed, at least to a modern sensibility, for a film where musical talent plays so huge a role in the story. Ophüls replaced Jourdan with a hand double whenever possible, but he couldn't avoid exposing the actor's incompetence at the keyboard in a crucial scene.

Let's jump forward half a century to Roman Polanski's ultra famous 2002 drama The Pianist. Set during WWII, it tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist (played by an emaciated Adrien Brody) who escapes deportation to the extermination camp of Treblinka. Polanski, a Holocaust survivor himself, based the film on Szpilman's own book of memoirs, first published in 1946 and later in 1998.