A marvelously funny movie about sadness. For his follow-up to THE 400 BLOWS (1959), Francois Truffaut chose not to deliver another episode of his autobiography, nor to study childhood, but to pay homage to Hollywood gangster films. Deciding to adapt David Goodis's pulp novel Down There,
Truffaut chose Charles Aznavour, one of France's most popular singers and songwriters, to play the role of Charlie Kohler, a honky-tonk cafe piano player who has given up his life as the famed concert pianist Edouard Saroyan. He becomes mixed up in the underworld affairs of his brother, Remy, and
fears not only for his own safety, but for that of his adolescent brother, Kanayan. In the process he falls in love with Dubois but has trouble mustering the courage to court her. As he gets entangled deeper and deeper in the underworld and in romance, Aznavour reveals who he really is, how he got
"down there," and why he doesn't ever want to go back.
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER is a magnificent picture, not because of its debt to the gangster genre, but because of Truffaut's personal approach to that genre. Truffaut doesn't concern himself with plot mechanisms--since those have been provided for him countless times by Hollywood--but instead uses
the conventions as a frame upon which to hang his own ideas (in much the same way the science-fiction genre served him in FAHRENHEIT 451), which burst out into all kinds of witty explorations. Said Truffaut, "The idea behind SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER was to make a film without a subject, to express
all I wanted to say about glory, success, downfall, failure, women, and love by means of a detective story. It's a grab bag." More than anything, it is a collection of beautifully scripted and photographed moments, many of which do nothing to further the narrative, but give the film a soul. One
such moment lasts only a split second: A heartless club owner swears that he is telling the truth and proclaims, "If I am lying, may my mother drop dead." At that instant, Truffaut cuts to a shot of a decrepit old woman dropping to the floor. The casting of Aznavour is brilliant, the actor
combining the proper blend of cafe piano man and classical pianist--a figure who loses everything he has ever loved, except his music.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A marvelously funny movie about sadness. For his follow-up to THE 400 BLOWS (1959), Francois Truffaut chose not to deliver another episode of his autobiography, nor to study childhood, but to pay homage to Hollywood gangster films. Deciding to adapt David… (more)