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A Masterpiece About a Musical Master

Remember that smooch Adrien Brody planted on Hallie Berry at the 2002 Oscars when he won best actor for “The Pianist?” A memorable moment in Oscar ceremony history.

The film, which also earned Roman Polanski a best director Oscar and won best adapted screenplay as well, was based on Wladyslaw Szpilman’s harrowing account of his five-year ordeal during the Holocaust, first published in Poland in 1946 under the title “Death of a City.”

Szpilman’s memoir details how he survived the German deportations of Jews to the camps, the 1943 destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Polanski’s inspiration for adapting the true story for the screen came from the fact that he himself had been a prisoner of the Polish ghetto during World War II. He had returned to Poland from France with his parents just two years before WW II. Both of his parents were taken to concentration camps, where his mother eventually died. With the help of his father, who pushed him through the barbed wire of a camp, Roman escaped the ghetto and traveled through the Polish countryside where he lived with different Catholic families, ultimately reuniting with his father in 1945.

Widely regarded as his strongest and most personal film to date, it is also considered one of the finest Holocaust films ever made. “By comparison, Schindler’s List is Pretentious Hollywood crap,” according to “Three Movie Buffs” website.

“The Pianistis an elegy to Warsaw and testament to human faith and the power of music.  The movie’s tagline aptly sums up this exceptional drama: “Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.”

For tickets to the screening of  “The Pianist” on Tuesday June 5 at 7:00 pm, visit The film is presented by Menorah in conjunction with the Colorado Music Festival’s Rediscovered Masters series honoring the work of Holocuast composers.


About Kathryn Bernheimer

Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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