Sunday, June 21, 2015

358. Tirez sur le pianiste/Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Francois Truffaut
Written By: Marcel Moussy, Francois Truffaut, from the novel Down There by David Goodis
Main Cast: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michele Mercier, Serge Davri

Note: This will mark the first time that you'll get two consecutive reviews, written back to back, because as I write this, I've actually finished watching two movies: Shoot the Piano Player and Blade Runner. Since the inception of this project, I've been strict about my rule of writing the reviews directly after watching the movies, without watching anything else first. However, I decided to change things up and since the cable company decided to give away a free preview of Cinemax this week and since Blade Runner was streaming via Cinemax OnDemand, I decided to go ahead and watch it while I still could. So, immediately following the writing of this review, I'll log back into the Blogger account and immediately begin writing my Blade Runner review. Hopefully this all goes well...


I'm shocked that I'm actually managing to keep Truffaut Week contained almost to a week. Sure it'll probably realistically almost reach two weeks, but that's pretty good considering my lagging lately. Let's get down to it and discuss easily the best Truffaut so far - Shoot the Piano Player.

The plot is very film noir, with the whole thing starting out with a criminal named Chico running from a couple more criminals - Momo and Ernest. It's a good way to start the film, so that as soon as we sit down, we're right in the thick of SOMETHING - what, we don't know yet. Eventually Chico makes his way into a bar, where his brother plays piano on a nightly basis. The brother is Charlie (Aznavour) and soon, we get his back story - once a famous piano player named Edouard Saroyan, he went small time when his wife betrayed him and ended up offing herself. Chico begs Charlie to help him out, Charlie showing Chico the back door and leaving it at that. However, the clumsy gangsters, Momo and Ernest don't stop there when it comes to Charlie's involvement, thinking he's hiding Chico somewhere. Meanwhile, Chico plays it shy when it comes to waitress (at the same club where Charlie plays) Lena (Dubois). He just can't seem to spit out the right words and he's sure she thinks he's a nobody, when actually she likes him too. At home, Charlie lives in modest digs, taking care of his kid brother Fido and sleeping with his next door neighbor, who also happens to be a prostitute, on a seemingly nightly basis. When Charlie is pulled into the criminal underworld, the people around him can't escape the same fate and soon Charlie's world is turned topsy turvy, all because his brother chose to come running into the same joint where he plays piano.


Was anyone else reminded of The Godfather while watching this? You had this family of four brothers (sure, the Corleone's had a sister too - beside the point), all of whom are career criminals, save for one (Michael/Charlie). However, when they are pushed, both Charlie and Michael get pulled into criminal activity, losing the life they once knew or the one they long for. You get the sense in "Shoot the Piano Player" that the death of Lena will only lead to more bloodshed from Charlie and that his plunge into the criminal underworld won't stop with Momo and Ernest. Perhaps my comparison is off base, but I couldn't help thinking of the Michael Corleone story while watching the events of Shoot the Piano Player unfold.

Otherwise, I thought Shoot the Piano Player was a fine movie, kept short & simple and after reading THE BOOK entry for the film, I learned that it was actually a piece of very self indulgent filmmaking on Truffaut's part. Apparently he vowed to himself to make a film that he would enjoy and makes me think that perhaps Francois Truffaut and I have similar taste, as this was easily my favorite Truffaut film thus far. In fact, I feel like I could like this even more on multiple viewings, my heart breaking harder and harder for Charlie on each viewing. This film also made me realize that perhaps I'm not as much of a downer as I thought I was. I'm always asking for a tragic ending and deducting points when I don't get it, however, here I got the tragic ending and was disappointed with it. I think I'd have much preferred to see Charlie, Lena and Fido walking hand in hand, off into the sunset, as the end credits started to roll. Charlie's story was so tragic throughout, that by the time the end rolled around, I felt he needed a break and to send the audience home happy.

If you're a fan of old school, Hollywood film noir, gangsters, hoods, dive bars, broken hearts, suicides, prostitutes in love and depressed nightclub musicians, check this out. Just when you think that Truffaut is playing it safe in 1960, Michele Mercier flashes her breasts or Charlie's wife jumps to her death and you realize that the MPAA wasn't a thing in France. I, for one, was pretty shocked to see a nude scene and a violent death scene, both shown on camera. It only adds to the grittiness of the film and the grittiness lends itself to the heartwarming aspects, to combine for a pretty great concoction. Perhaps it could've been longer, but perhaps longer would've only hurt it. Perhaps it could've been more intricate, but that may have hurt it too, so who am I to criticize.

RATING: 7/10  Good stuff, not really great stuff yet, but again I think that on multiple viewings, I'd only like this one more and more and more. Here's hoping The 400 Blows closes Truffaut Week with a bang.


June 21, 2015  9:52am

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