`Pianist' racks up film critics' awards

Movie applauded for its portrayal of Polish life during Holocaust

January 07, 2003|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

NEW YORK - Roman Polanski's The Pianist, an emotionally devastating portrait of Polish life during the Holocaust, was the big winner at the 37th annual award vote meeting of The National Society of Film Critics, taking four major prizes: best director, actor, screenplay and film.

Polanski's movie was based on the true-life memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a young classical pianist who lived through the hellish World War II Nazi occupation in Warsaw. It has been hailed as a definitive comeback for the controversial director, who, as a youngster, experienced the Polish holocaust years himself in Krakow, the site of Schindler's List.

His film, a magnificently unsentimental and harrowing re-creation, previously won the Palme d'Or, the major prize of last year's Cannes Film Festival and, at Saturday's meeting, it scored an impressive sweep with the NSFC.

Not only did both the film and Polanski take top prizes - in each case nosing out runners-up Y Tu Mama Tambien and Talk to Her and directors Alfonso Cuaron and Pedro Almodovar - but both Ronald Harwood's screenplay and Adrien Brody's lead performance were recognized as well.

Brody edged out runner-up Michael Caine, who had one of his career-best roles as the cynical, world-weary journalist in Philip Noyce's adaptation of Graham Greene's Vietnam-set The Quiet American.

The Society named Diane Lane best actress for her sensual performance as a faceless wife whose infidelity triggers tragedy in Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful. Runners-up were Maggie Gyllenhaal as the masochistic employee of Secretary and Isabelle Huppert as the sadomasochistic classical musician of The Piano Teacher.

It was also a big afternoon for fledgling film distributing company Focus Features, which could count four wins for The Pianist and two others for Far from Heaven: best supporting actress (Patricia Clarkson) actress and best cinematography (Ed Lachman).

The best supporting actor scroll went to Christopher Walken for his moving, offbeat portrayal of con man Frank Abagnale Jr.'s financially fallen father in Catch Me if You Can.

Y Tu Mama Tambien, the lusty and wistful Mexican road comedy-rama, won the best foreign-language film prize.

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