DATE January 10, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/Aâ¨ TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/Aâ¨ NETWORK NPRâ¨ PROGRAM Fresh Airâ¨â¨Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and hasâ¨been omitted from this transcriptâ¨â¨* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *â¨â¨Interview: Queen Latifah discusses her career as a rapper andâ¨actressâ¨BARBARA BOGAEV, host:â¨â¨This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.â¨â¨In the new film "Chicago," Queen Latifah plays the tough prison matron Mamaâ¨who does favors for her female prisoners in return for their intimateâ¨friendship and cold cash.â¨â¨(Soundbite of "Chicago")â¨â¨Ms. QUEEN LATIFAH: (As Mama) Ask any of the chickies in my pen. They'll tellâ¨you I'm the biggest mother--hen. I love 'em all, and all of them love meâ¨because the system works, the system called reciprocity. Got a little motto,â¨always sees me through. When you're good to Mama, Mama's good to you.â¨There's a lot of favors I'm prepared to do. You do one for Mama, she'll doâ¨one for you. They say that life is tit-for-tat, and that's the way I live, soâ¨I deserve a lot of tat for what I've got to give. Don't you know that thisâ¨hand washes that one, too? When you're good to Mama, Mama's good to you.â¨â¨BOGAEV: That's Queen Latifah from the soundtrack of the new film "Chicago."â¨Her performance earned her a Golden Globe best actress nomination. She alsoâ¨has a new album, a collection of hits released in December called "She's aâ¨Queen." Queen Latifah's first CD in 1989 established her image as anâ¨Afrocentric, independent woman who didn't like the misogynistic bent of someâ¨fellow rappers. The strength that she portrays in her music has carried overâ¨into her roles on TV and in the movies. She was one of the stars of the Foxâ¨sitcom "Living Single" and has co-starred in the movies "Brown Sugar,"â¨"Juice," "Set It Off" and "Living Out Loud."â¨â¨Terry spoke with Queen Latifah in 1999 after the publication of herâ¨autobiography, "Ladies First." Let's start with a tune from her 1994 Grammyâ¨Award-winning record "U.N.I.T.Y."â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Oh, oh, U-N-I-T-Y, U-N-I-T-Y, that's a unity. U-N-I-T-Y,â¨love a black man from infinity to infinity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) Who you callin' a bitch? Here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You gotta let 'em know.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y, that's a unity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You go, come on, here we go. Here we go, uh.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You gotta let 'em know...â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Love a black woman from infinity to infinity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) ...you ain't a bitch or a ho. Here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You gotta let 'em know.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y, that's a unity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) Come on, come on and here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) Yeah, you gotta let 'em know...â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Love a black man from infinity to infinity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) ...you ain't a bitch or a ho. Instinct leads me toâ¨another flow. Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho, tryingâ¨to make a sister feel low, you know all of that gots to go. Now everybodyâ¨knows there's exceptions to this rule.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Yeah.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) And I won't be getting mad when we playin'; it'sâ¨cool. But don't you be callin' me out my name. I bring wrath to those whoâ¨disrespect me like a dame. That's why I'm talkin'. One day I was walkin'â¨down the block. I had my cut-off shorts on, right, 'cause it was crazy hot.â¨I walked past these dudes. When they passed me, one of them felt my booty.â¨He was nasty.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Yeah.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) I turned around red. Somebody was catching the wrath.â¨Then the little one said...â¨â¨Backup Singer #2: Ha-ha, yeah, me, bitch.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) ..and laughed. 'Cause he was with his boys, he triedâ¨to break fly. I punched him dead in his eye, 'said, `Who you callin' aâ¨bitch?' Here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You gotta let 'em know.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y, that's a unity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) You go. Come on, here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) Yeah, you gotta let 'em know...â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: Love a black woman from infinity to infinity.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Singing) ...you ain't a bitch or a ho. Here we go.â¨â¨Backup Singer #1: U-N-I-T-Y.â¨â¨TERRY GROSS, host:â¨â¨In this rap, you talk about what you don't like about `bitch' and `ho' kind ofâ¨language. Elaborate on that for me.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Laughs) Oh. You know, honestly, the record was really made inâ¨response to--at the time, there were so many records coming out with, youâ¨know, rappers calling women, you know, bitch this, ho that. And I justâ¨thought it was, like, getting out of control and it was becoming a bit tooâ¨much. And I'm not saying that I don't, you know, use expletives when I'mâ¨hanging out with my friends, you know, and, you know, I mean, we may say someâ¨of those things, but we say it in joking. But when it's meant to be reallyâ¨derogatory or to disrespect people constantly, you know, it just got to be tooâ¨much. And so I felt like saying something about it, you know?â¨â¨GROSS: Did you feel that that language represented larger attitudes towardâ¨women in the music world or the rap world or among your friends?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Well, definitely some people use that word to apply to allâ¨women, you know, and it seems like the word--I mean, I could call a guy anâ¨M-F, but it's not gonna be as harsh as him calling me a bitch. There's aâ¨difference. It sounds worse and it feels worse. You know what I mean? So Iâ¨felt like, you know, it was time somebody said something about it because itâ¨was just--it's still out of control. It's still out of control, you know, butâ¨I think that that helped bring awareness to it. And the record wasn't so muchâ¨about the word `bitch.' The record was about--the first verse is about, youâ¨know, the respect and respecting a woman. The second verse is about abuse, aâ¨woman being beaten by her man and finding the strength to leave. And theâ¨third verse was about young girls, like, who wanted to be tough, wanted to beâ¨gangsta B's. You know what I mean? I mean, the record was really about a lotâ¨of different things. And the point of the record was unity. Let's bring itâ¨all together. Let's put all of this stupid stuff to the side and let's beâ¨together, man. Let's stop pushing each other away from each other and let'sâ¨be down with each other.â¨â¨GROSS: The first name that you rapped under was Princess of the Posse. Howâ¨did you decide on that name for yourself?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: No, Latifah was my name. The Princess of the Posse was just myâ¨little title, you know, because I was like the only girl in our crew. Andâ¨Ramsey was kind of like--Ramsey and DJ Mark the 45 King were like the heads ofâ¨the crew, you know, so to speak. They were like the heads of the crew, but Iâ¨was--I mean, I didn't go with either one of them, so I couldn't be like theirâ¨girlfriends or anything like that. So I just took the little--I was like theâ¨little sister. So I took the Princess title.â¨â¨GROSS: So what was it like being the only female in your posse?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: I wasn't the only female, but I was the only female rapper. Itâ¨felt good. You know, I was cool with it, you know. And then all myâ¨friends--I introduced, like, a lot of my friends to the guys in my crew, andâ¨some of them hooked up with the guys in my crew, so it was like--it was cool.â¨We had a big old family. We had a female deejay, this girl named Gingerâ¨G(ph). She used to deejay. So she was the female deejay; I was the femaleâ¨rapper. And you know, we had a couple of other people, you know, down withâ¨us, but that was it. And it was actually a good experience for me, 'cause Iâ¨got to be around guys and see how they think and what they do, and they couldâ¨be natural around me. They didn't really hide anything, you know, in front ofâ¨me because it wasn't like I was their girlfriend, you know. So they didn'tâ¨have to front and, you know, be phony or whatever. I learned a lot.â¨â¨And then, you know, I had them right there to help me practice. We allâ¨practiced around each other. We would write and then we would bounce theâ¨rhymes off of each other to see what the other person thought and getâ¨constructive criticism. It was almost like a school for rap. It was realâ¨good.â¨â¨GROSS: How did you decide what you wanted your image to be?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: I kind of just wanted it to not be like anybody else that wasâ¨already out. So you know, when the record company gave me some money to goâ¨shopping, you know, to get clothes and stuff for my promo pictures, you know,â¨I didn't have a stylist, so they basically just gave me money to go shopping.â¨So I went and bought, you know, a couple of outfits, you know, some stretchâ¨pants and a nice shirt or whatever, you know. But then I was walking down theâ¨street downtown in Newark called Halsey Street and I passed this Africanâ¨store, and I had already decided my name was Queen Latifah by this point. Andâ¨then I was looking at some of the clothing and I liked the way that the pantsâ¨were made. It was like a drawstring thing. It was beautiful embroidery. Iâ¨saw this fabric and I asked the lady could she make me a suit, basically, youâ¨know, a shirt and some pants and a hat to match, like a crown. And she saidâ¨she could do it, and she hooked it up for me and it came out real cool. So Iâ¨took my first promo pictures in it. And I was barefoot in these pictures,â¨squatting with this African suit on, and it was like, `Whoa, who is this?'â¨You know, my look was just automatically different from then on.â¨â¨GROSS: It's good you had your clothes made, too, because you write in yourâ¨book that you hated the full-sized women's shops; you didn't like the clothesâ¨in there.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Well, yeah, most of the time it's just some big, you know--Iâ¨mean, things have gotten a lot nicer since, you know, then. That was like 10,â¨12 years ago or whatever. But yeah, things have gotten--they've come a longâ¨way. You know, I still think that the bigger ladies need some really flyâ¨clothes to wear, because most women--I mean, most women that I know are justâ¨small women, you know. They need to have really nice things made for them soâ¨they can look just as beautiful as, you know, these little size 6's. It's allâ¨good. Share the love.â¨â¨GROSS: Now you write that when you were growing up, you were uncomfortableâ¨with your body because you were big. Is that something you had to get overâ¨before you started performing, or had you already gotten over that?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah, I basically had gotten over that by then. I mean, myâ¨concern, my initial concern wasn't because I was big, 'cause I wasn't likeâ¨big, fat, you know. I was bigger than every other girl in the class, though.â¨â¨GROSS: You were playing basketball.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah, I was, like, always the tallest girl in the class, alwaysâ¨the biggest girl in the class until, like, this other girl came to schoolâ¨named Shania(ph), and I was so happy because she was bigger than me, and Iâ¨didn't think it was possible, but I was so happy because she took the pressureâ¨off of me for a minute, which was nice. But it was like my breasts, you know,â¨I developed--the women in my family are pretty well-endowed up top. So I gotâ¨pretty well-endowed pretty early in life. I was like 11 years old, popping upâ¨with these things, and I'm like, `Oh, God, what do I do with this? What areâ¨you doing here? Why-y me?'â¨â¨And then they just grew, so my friends would, like, tease me sometimes. Theyâ¨made me feel a little bit uncomfortable about it. But as I grew older, I grewâ¨to accept them. I grew to love my body, you know, and it was reinforced byâ¨certain people that I was involved with intimately. They loved it, too, soâ¨I'm like, `Man.' And now I love my breasts. This is the best thing in theâ¨world.â¨â¨GROSS: You know, you use your size on stage as power, too.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah. Why not? I am statuesque. My stature goes right alongâ¨with my personality.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Queen Latifah speaking with Terry Gross in 1999. She plays theâ¨prison warden Mama in the new film "Chicago." We'll hear more of theirâ¨conversation after the break. This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, we're featuring a 1999 interview Terryâ¨Gross recorded with Queen Latifah. She stars in the new film "Chicago."â¨â¨GROSS: You have been doing, you know, a lot of acting. You were the star ofâ¨the TV series "Living Single." You've been in several movies, includingâ¨"Juice" and "Get It Off"--Is that what it's called?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: "Set It Off."â¨â¨GROSS: "Set It Off," yeah. I saw it, but I forgot the title.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: "Get It Off"? What you thinking about over there, huh? Uh-huh.â¨â¨(Soundbite of laughter)â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: "Set It Off."â¨â¨GROSS: "Set It Off." And, oh, "Living Out Loud."â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Mm-hmm.â¨â¨GROSS: When you got into acting, did you--had you planned to get into acting?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Well, it was something that I always wanted to do.â¨â¨GROSS: Since you were a kid?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah. I mean, I acted in school plays and stuff. I never hadâ¨any, like, really formal, formal training as in classes or anything like that,â¨but I felt like I had a talent, you know. And I felt like it would beâ¨something good for me to do, and I wanted to do it, because I never looked atâ¨myself like I'm the best rapper ever on the planet. And unless I could sayâ¨that, then I would never be comfortable just being a rapper. I needed toâ¨have, like--I needed to diversify and have things to fall back on, so actingâ¨was definitely a passion that I wanted to pursue.â¨â¨GROSS: Your first movie was "Juice," right?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: My first movie was--was it "Juice?" "Jungle Fever."â¨â¨GROSS: Oh, "Jungle Fever." OK. That was, like, a small role, very smallâ¨role, right?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah, one day.â¨â¨GROSS: OK. And then in "Juice," you had a larger role as a deejay, so it wasâ¨kind of pretty close to who you are.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Right.â¨â¨GROSS: You didn't have to, like, reinvent yourself completely...â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: No. Exactly.â¨â¨GROSS: ...for that. Was that a good way to get started, you know, in a roleâ¨that was pretty close to home?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Well, you know what? It was, I guess, in a way, but then itâ¨wasn't. You know, it was kind of like I got sick of playing what peopleâ¨thought Queen Latifah was in their scripts. Like, people would look at myâ¨image or who they thought I was, and then they'd write me in there basically,â¨but it wasn't me, you know? It wasn't me. I was much more rounded. I wasâ¨much more well-rounded than the linear characters that they kind of had meâ¨playing. And they would just like this remanufactured version of Queenâ¨Latifah. I was happy for the opportunity to be in a movie and kind of learn,â¨so it was good learning some of those things without having to stretch too farâ¨from who I really am, but that's not something that can sustain you, andâ¨that's not something that can establish you as an actor. So I was dying forâ¨the role that was not me, that was not anything remotely like me, so that Iâ¨could really show my skills, my talent, use it.â¨â¨GROSS: What's the closest you've come to a role that's not remotely like you?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: "Set It Off," Cleo.â¨â¨GROSS: Describe her character.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Cleo in "Set It Off." She was basically orphaned at a youngâ¨age. She had no one left, really, but her friends. Her friends were the mostâ¨important thing, you know, in her life to her. She would die for them. Sheâ¨was very strong, but real tender on the inside. She was a lesbian and in aâ¨monogamous relationship with someone, although she did like to flirt. Andâ¨that was basically--she just really cared--you know, she kind of cursed a lot.â¨She liked to drink, and, you know, she liked to smoke her cigarettes. She wasâ¨a little bit wild, but she was a very caring person. She really was reallyâ¨down for her friends, and that was, like, the bottom line, so...â¨â¨GROSS: Did you see a lot of homophobia surface after your performance?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: No. You know, I didn't. People had love for that character,â¨and that was what I really wanted to do. I wanted to make them really loveâ¨her. You know, that character was so great, and the script was so great forâ¨her, because she got to really go all out for her friends. You had to loveâ¨her. If you didn't care about her, then you needed to really examine your ownâ¨emotions and your own feelings, because anybody who basically would say,â¨`Look, you guys go, run,' and take the heat and knew she was going to take theâ¨heat, knew she was probably going to die and knew she was going to meet herâ¨end, you know, but sacrificed herself so that her friends could, you know, beâ¨free like that, that's a true, true, trooper. That's a true friend. And so Iâ¨figured that, you know, if you don't have love for this girl by the time thisâ¨movie is over, you're just twisted. So, I mean, basically, the--there's aâ¨scene in there where I kiss this girl.â¨â¨(Soundbite of kissing sound)â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: And I have yet to watch this scene, because I can't watch it,â¨you know, myself. I don't think I can just watch myself be intimate, period.â¨It wasn't the fact that she was a girl. But it was the fact that, just, I'mâ¨kissing somebody, you know, and I can't watch me do that, I don't think. Butâ¨it was kind of funny, because I went and saw the movie, like, eight times, youâ¨know, when it came out. And I would see it in regular theaters, like, creepâ¨in and just sit in the back of the theater with a regular audience and seeâ¨how they reacted. And every time that kissing scene came, people was like,â¨`Ah! Eww! Ooh!' You know, people--I mean, you could hear this big roar inâ¨the theater. But by the time the end of the movie came, they were, like,â¨cheering for the girls, like, cheering for us to, like, get away, to win, youâ¨know? So they couldn't remember, you know. It wasn't like their mind stayedâ¨focused on that one thing, you know, which was good for me.â¨â¨GROSS: So they're cheering or jeering, and you're turning your head from theâ¨screen at the same time, 'cause you don't want to watch yourself beingâ¨intimate?â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: Pretty much. Ew, ah! Pretty much, yeah.â¨â¨GROSS: Queen Latifah plays the prison matron, Mama, in the new film,â¨"Chicago."â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) Dana Owens aka Queen Latifah. Yes, I'm here toâ¨testify. No, I gotta speak on my behalf. You don't even know what happened.â¨Can I just tell you what happened?â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He had it coming.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) He had it coming.â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He only had himself to blame. Ifâ¨you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it, I think that you would have doneâ¨the same!â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) I mean, imagine--why was he hittin' this woman. Whyâ¨was she takin' that? Now picture her fightin' back. Think of the assâ¨kickin'. Think of his ass flippin' down the stairs and me at the top smilin'.â¨He should have stopped whilin'. Now could you picture me tryin' to finish himâ¨off? See why? Picture me on this side of the law. High heels leave holes.â¨You'd have thought I was gunned. Now the cops comin'. I ain't runnin'.â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He had it coming.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) Girl, you should have seen it. Sure did bob andâ¨weave before the cops come, got a couple of clean hits. ...(Unintelligible)â¨couldn't take the abuse, but I couldn't explain that to the state troops.â¨But you know, girl. Yeah, you go, girl, 'cause I look real cute in orangeâ¨jumpsuits. That's the story I'm tellin', and I ain't changing nothin'. Iâ¨just needed you to know, your honor.â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He had it coming.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) He had it comin'.â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He only had himself to blame. Ifâ¨you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it, I think that you would have doneâ¨the same! He had it coming.â¨â¨Ms. LATIFAH: (Rapping) He had it comin'.â¨â¨Unidentified Back-up Vocalists: (Singing) He only had himself to blame.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Queen Latifah with Lil' Kim and Macy Gray from the soundtrack ofâ¨"Chicago."â¨â¨Next Tuesday, Terry Gross will talk about the making of "Chicago" with theâ¨film's director and choreographer, Rob Marshall, and also with Paul Bogaev,â¨who supervised and conducted the music. In the interest of full disclosure,â¨he's my brother.â¨â¨Coming up, David Edelstein reviews "The Pianist," the new film by Romanâ¨Polanski. This is FRESH AIRâ¨â¨* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *â¨â¨Review: Movie "The Pianist"â¨BARBARA BOGAEV, host:â¨â¨Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" is based on the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman. Heâ¨was a celebrated Warsaw pianist when the Nazis invaded Poland, and he survivedâ¨the war in Warsaw. "The Pianist" won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Filmâ¨Festival and was chosen Best Picture of 2002 from the National Society of Filmâ¨Critics. It's favorite of critic David Edelstein's. Here's his review.â¨â¨DAVID EDELSTEIN:â¨â¨The first time we see the title character of "The Pianist," he's playing aâ¨Chopin "Nocturne" live on Polish radio when German bombs hit the Warsawâ¨station. It's 1939, and Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody, isâ¨annoyed. He wants to finish. He keeps playing after the technicians haveâ¨fled until he's literally blown off his piano bench. And there, in those fewâ¨seconds, is the central tension in the movie. It's between the artist'sâ¨stubborn classical detachment and the violent contortions of the outsideâ¨world.â¨â¨As the Nazis round up and brutalize the Jews of Warsaw, "The Pianist" pushesâ¨that tension to the breaking point. The movie is grueling; for longâ¨stretches, wordless. Yet nothing in its nearly two and a half hours feelsâ¨unnecessarily prolonged.â¨â¨Roman Polanski and his screenwriter, the English playwright Ronald Harwood,â¨keep the scenes short and severe, framed by fade-outs and fade-ins like cruelâ¨blackout sketches. Not long after bickering about where to hide what littleâ¨money they have, Szpilman and his family watch from their apartment window asâ¨a wheelchair-bound old man in a building across the street is dumped off aâ¨balcony, then the rest of his family shot down and run over. The sequence,â¨with its helplessly restricted vantage, is like a circus of horrors viewed byâ¨someone frozen to a seat in fear. It's no wonder the Jews go collectivelyâ¨insane, that they even come to prey on one another.â¨â¨Szpilman's stature gives him an edge. He makes money playing in a ghettoâ¨cafe, where the Jewish beau monde tries to act as if nothing has changed. Andâ¨he has an offer to work for the collaborationist Jewish police. The offerâ¨sickens him, but it's the collaborator who made it, who pulls him out of theâ¨long procession that leads to the freight train to Treblinka, where the restâ¨of his family will perish. Szpilman is treated as a kind of preciousâ¨commodity. He's shuttled by a small network of artist friends from apartmentâ¨to apartment while he slowly wastes away from lack of food, human contact andâ¨music.â¨â¨"The Pianist" is classical in its rigor, but radical, I think, in the camera'sâ¨eerie distance from the central action. Through windows, from a fixedâ¨perspective, the pianist watches the Jews starved, shot and deported. Heâ¨watches the Polish resistance make a final stand. He watches the remainingâ¨inhabitants of the ghetto mount a rebellion that is crushed. History goes byâ¨while he peers out from his hiding place, sometimes pretending to play a pianoâ¨that, for fear of discovery, he can't actually touch.â¨â¨This is a major performance by Adrien Brody. Brody lost 30 pounds from hisâ¨already skinny frame. And, no, I don't think that torturing your body andâ¨mind and great acting go hand-in-hand, but in this case, you can feel as ifâ¨you're watching someone actually suffer and, in that suffering, hit notesâ¨you've never heard before.â¨â¨One of my colleagues has complained that the film doesn't tell you whatâ¨Szpilman learned from this experience. I'd say he learned that when peopleâ¨want to kill you, you hide, and if you're starving, you look for something toâ¨eat. I'd say that he learned that if the world is a circus of horrors, thenâ¨there's a kind of heroism in clinging to Chopin, because maybe, with your art,â¨you can still touch someone, even a Nazi someone, with a glimpse of a higherâ¨order.â¨â¨For those who believe that art should be a more radical force for change,â¨Polanski's validation of Szpilman's detachment might seem like a bourgeois orâ¨even sentimental notion, but there's no sentimentality in "The Pianist." It'sâ¨drenched in stoicism. The detachment of the artist is a force of nature inâ¨its own right, not a match for fascism. That would be sentimental, like theâ¨movie, "Life Is Beautiful," but more than just a palliative.â¨â¨Polanski has said that he could only tell his own story of escaping as a smallâ¨boy from the Krakow ghetto, where his mother died, through Szpilman's eyes.â¨That story is not so much in the movie's events, but in its tone. We can feelâ¨in "The Pianist" the source of the cruel stoicism in Polanski's other work,â¨even in his early films, before the senseless murder of his pregnant wife,â¨Sharon Tate. He had to deaden something in himself to survive. Yet an artistâ¨can't be deadened. And so the compromise is this rigorous detachment, whichâ¨allows him to show us, without flinching, the kind of horror and the kind ofâ¨heroism that other directors are afraid to go near.â¨â¨BOGAEV: David Edelstein, a film critic for the online magazine Slate.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨(Credits)â¨â¨BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.