The Pianist

This is based on the true story of a Polish=Jew who survived the German occupation in World War Two, directed by Roman Polanski. And it is most excellent. It was a French, German, Polish, and British co-production.

Adrien Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a gifted piano player who along with his parents, sisters and brothers tries to survive the German occupation after Poland is invaded. Things only get worse of course.

The film portrays the hardship and horror of what the Jews had to go through, some of it quite shocking, and no doubt based on actual accounts of what went on. I didn’t know that a part of Warsaw was used to house all of the Jews in the city temporarily, and was walled off from the rest of the city, like the Berlin Wall.

The acting was absolutely superb from all, as was the direction and the sets. Some of the shots of bombed-out streets towards the end of the film could not have possibly been real, so the CG was most excellent too.

It is a long film at 150 minutes, but it does not feel like it at all.

Not an uplifting film, and not easy to watch at times, but it’s three Academy Awards (out of seven nominations) proves that this is a must-watch.

Date watched: June 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2019: 16

Chinatown

I first watched this film back in 2012, and I gave it a rapturous review back then, and adding it to my list of best films ever. So, it was my intention to watch this again someday, and so I did. And just as last time, I found it to be a most excellent film, just as good as I remembered.

Most of the excellent-ness is due to Jack Nicholson’s and Faye Dunaway’s acting, both were brilliant, almost as good as Humphrey and Bacall. It also felt a lot like a Humphrey crime noir film both in it’s intricate story and cinematography (except that it was in colour).

There were one or two very minor directing niggles from Roman Polanski (this was his last film in the U.S.), but it was well paced and always engaging.

Do yourself a favour and watch this again.

Date watched: April 18th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 29

Weekend of a Champion

I stumbled across this on Netflix and had to watch it becaue it was about Formula 1 and Jackie Stewart.

It was directed by Roman Polanski who is a good friend of Jackie’s, and was filmed over the course of the 1971 Monaco GP weekend.

It followed Jackie as he prepared for the race, with plenty of behind the scenes footage which was fascinating to watch. There was footage of him talking to his engineers about car setup, talking with other drivers including Graham Hill, Francois Cevert (Jackie’s teammate, who died two years later), and to Roman himself.

The trackside and in-car footage was good to see. Jackie had a 16 mm camera in the car with him which gave some great footage as he screamed around the circuit during practice. The cars in those days looked fragile and lacked basic driver safety, so those drivers were truly brave and slightly nuts. Both Chris Amon and Denny Hulme were in the race also (both NZ drivers).

The almost total lack of safety was clearly evident. Jackie was at the time trying to get Formula 1 safety improved, and it was his efforts that have made F1 as safe as it is today. But, in this documentary you can see track marshals, photographers, and other people right on the side of the track during the race, with absolutely no barrier between them and the cars which in places were passing by only a metre or so away.

As this is Monaco there were plenty of celebrities around, and in the after-race dinner we saw Ringo Starr, Joan Collins, Grace Kelly, and Prince Rainer.

After this premiered in 1972 it had a small release then was forgotten for 40 years. Roman rediscovered it, recut it, and it was re-released in 2013. Roman added some present day footage shot in the same hotel room where Jackie and his wife stayed during the 1971 race weekend. He talked with Jackie about the race, his work on F1 safety, Jackie’s dyslexia, and sideburns.

This is really only for Jackie Stewart and Formula 1 fans, of which I am both so I enjoyed it. For others it might be a bit dull.

Date watched: December 4th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 138

Cul-de-Sac

This was a 1966 British film directed by Roman Polanksi.

This is the first film I have seen with Donald Pleasence in a lead role. As this was a 1966 film he was quite young looking, still bald though. But, he was damn funny.

Also in this was Lionel Stander, you may remember him from Hart to Hart as Max. He was great too as the gangster thug, but he also was very funny at times. Read up about him on Wikipedia, he had a very interesting life.

Good stuff.

Date watched: February 8th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2013: 17