- Actors: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger
- Directors: François Truffaut
- Format: Dolby, Letterboxed, PAL
- Language: French
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 5 (Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: U/A (Parental Guidance)
- Studio: Enlighten
- Run Time: 80.00 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B006QQBMMC
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Shoot the Piano Player
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Charlie Kohler is a piano player in a bar. The waitress Lena is in love with him. One of Charlie's brother, Chico, a crook, takes refuge in the bar because he is chased by two gangsters, Momo and Ernest. We will discover that Charlie's real name is Edouard Saroyan, once a virtuose who gives up after his wife's suicide. Charlie now has to deal wih Chico, Ernest, Momo, Fido (his youngest brother who lives with him) and Lena.
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This was also the perfect film for a young college student. Charles Aznavour plays an alienated pianist who is working on a honky tonk piano in a bar. We learn as the film unfolds that he is excruciatingly shy - a problem that afflicted him in his earlier career as a concert pianist, and that also keeps him from responding to the overtures of a beautiful young woman who takes an interest in him. They do finally get together and have an idyllic rendezvous in the country, but things unfold to a shocking and tragic end. The film closes with Aznavour back in the bar retreating into his honky tonk piano.
Truffaut gives us a black and white film in which verite and surreal elements weave together. The sense of alienation is palpable. The role of fate and how it pursues us is presented with black humor and some funny concrete sight gags. All in all it combines to form a masterpiece. Not easy to watch for those not familiar with French cinema, but very well worth it. Highly recommended.
Truffaut opens with the inside of a piano clinking away on a joyful tune. The massive number of keystrokes on the piano ultimately delivers the upbeat melody from the inside, which serves like a reminder to the audience about the complexity of a melody that rests in a large number of basic sounds. It could also analogously direct the viewer in to the concept of how basic elements in a series could present a rather complex idea, which the film also does in multiple levels. The inside of the piano could also symbolize the inside of a person, as people can talk about how they feel inside, and on occasion, the feelings emerge through actions. In either case, the complete truth might never appear, as a person has the power to decide what they say, or show through their actions. There are also moments when the spoken words conflict with the actions, yet life continues to run its course towards its unavoidable doom.
A jump cut, much used by Godard in his brilliant Breathless (1960) to save money, moves the audience from the piano to a man escaping something in the middle of the Parisian night. The scene provides a sense of urgency together through a number of intriguing camera angles that accentuate the stress until the man slams into a streetlight. The sudden stop provides an inspirational flash, as it surprises the audience while the question lingers in the air - from what is the man running. Consequently, a stranger appears and helps him up. Again, Truffaut astonishes the audience, as the stranger and the man begin an amusingly interesting conversation about relationships with women. However, the chase is not over, as the man continues his running escape until he arrives to a local bar where his brother Charlie Kohler (Charles Aznavour) works as a piano player.
Besides the scurrying getaway, the audience quickly learns that there is something mischievous in the works, as the man addresses his brother Edouard. However, for the viewer to guess will only get the audience in the wrong direction, as Truffaut intentionally uses visual syntax and signs in a deceptive manner. Everything that Truffaut does in the film breaks against the traditional visual narrative, which helps bring out the original experience that rests within the story. For example, Charlie, or should we call him Edouard, refuses to help his brother who is in deep trouble with a couple of pipe smoking gangsters. It also should be noted that the pipe is often one of the tools to symbolize the law enforcement such as Sherlock Holmes. Nonetheless, Charlie aids his brother in his escape, as his words also conflict with his actions.
In the process of helping his brother, Charlie ends up in trouble himself and he brings his neighbor Clarisse (Michèle Mercier) into the mess, as he sleeps with Clarisse almost every night. During the days, she takes care of his much younger brother Fido while she finds time in-between to make a living as a prostitute. Truffaut also provides a positive view of the oldest profession in the world, which also conflicts the cinematic norm of the time. At the same time, Charlie desires to approach Lena (Marie Dubois) who works as a barmaid at the same bar he plays the piano. While courting Lena more of Charlie's past surfaces, especially information in regards to his ex-wife Therese (Nicole Berger) comes forward in an extended flashback. After countless unexpected turns the film eventually will draw towards its end, as the story has many times circled the important aspects of life while never truly stated what is significant in life.
It is evident that Truffaut had a soft spot for film noir and gangster films, as he was also an expert on Hitchcock. He even published a book on Hitchcock. The gangster element is prevalent in Shoot the Piano Player, but it is far from the only important aspect in the film. Truffaut also touches on several issues that were important to him such as relationships and freedom. However, he does not continue in the same light, as filmmakers before him, as he bends and purposely breaks the many indoctrinated rules of cinema from before the 1950s. It is within the cinematic rebelliousness much of the diverging characteristics emerge, as Truffaut prompts a large number of ideas that at times seem to go wandering aimlessly. This directionless impression converges into new ideas that help strengthen the artistic perspective of the film. Ultimately, it allows the viewer to enter an utterly unique visual experience that will play with the audience's preconceived notions and assumptions, which will both intrigue and entertain those who desire something beyond the ordinary even though the film is over 50-years old.