Shoot the Piano Player

Shoot the Piano Player (Tirez sur le pianiste)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Written by Francois Truffaut and Marcel Moussy from a novel by David Goodis
Les Films de la Pleiade
Repeat viewing/Netflix Rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

“Over the piano was printed a notice: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.” – Oscar Wilde, Impressions of America 

Truffaut goes meta for his second picture, with shots taken from film noir and text that could be from Woody Allen.  It’s enjoyable if superficial.

Since the death of his wife, concert pianist Edouard Saroyan (Charles Aznavour) has worked in a dance hall under the name Charlie Kohler.  Despite his shy manner and slight stature, he is quite a favorite with the ladies.  He is raising his youngest brother Fido.

As the film begins, brother Chico runs into the bar fleeing a couple of gunmen.  He explains that he and brother Richard participated in a heist with the gangsters and made off with all the loot.  Chico runs out of the club one step ahead of his pursuers.  These now begin to follow Charlie to find out the location of their family home.  They kidnap Fido for the same purpose.

In the meantime, Charlie is forming a tentative new relationship with waitress Lena.  He does as much as possible to remain uninvolved but the gangsters are unrelenting.  We continue to follow the chase.

The film’s look borrows heavily from American film noir of the 40s and 50’s.  It has more in common stylistically with Godard’s Breathless than it does with The 400 Blows.  Truffaut clearly had a good time experimenting throughout.  All the characters are far more concerned with their relationships, or lack thereof, with women than they are with the crime plot.  Except when they are on the business end of their guns, these are some of the most laid back gangsters you will ever see.


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