44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I use the word 'emotional' a lot. It means everything to me
Truffaut said he realised, when filming 'Shoot the Pianist', a gangster film, that he hated gangster films. He shows his contempt most by consistently emphasising human truth over generic convention, but finally allowing generic convention to win brutally through. For Truffaut, genre is incompatible with humanity and its messiness.
Like many of my favourite films...
Published on July 5, 2001 by darragh o'donoghue
3.0 out of 5 stars 5 for the movie, 1 for the transfer
This transfer is afflicted with horrendous flutter, even worse than Antonioni's L'Eclisse. Don't even think of buying it. Get it from Netflix and send it back.
Criterion makes mistakes too. Nobody's perfect.
Published 3 months ago by Doreen Appleton
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I use the word 'emotional' a lot. It means everything to me,
This review is from: Shoot the Piano Player (DVD)Truffaut said he realised, when filming 'Shoot the Pianist', a gangster film, that he hated gangster films. He shows his contempt most by consistently emphasising human truth over generic convention, but finally allowing generic convention to win brutally through. For Truffaut, genre is incompatible with humanity and its messiness.
Like many of my favourite films (and it is my favourite), 'Shoot' is a reworking of 'Vertigo', the story of a man who lets two women die because of his own emotional cowardice, leaving him in emotional shellshock. Aznavour's performance - and this isn't sufficiently realised - is one of the towering achievements of cinema, a complete, physical embodiment of diffidence, guilt, solitude and emotional paralysis, a man more lethal in his dithering passivity than murderous gangsters are in their violence.
Like all the best art, 'Shoot' is a tragicomedy, moving bewilderingly between the two moods, creating a devastating emotional texture - the hilarious scene where Charlie debates the best way to hold Lena only to tragically realise she's gone, or the frightening abduction scene that sees captor and juvenile captive argue comically over scarves.
As the title suggests, music is this film's soul, the only thing that can transcend genre for Charlie, the only way an emotionally dead man can feel.
Truffaut's restlessly inventive mise-en-scene, switching between studied artifice and breathless open air filming, is full of Hitchcock, Godard, Ophuls, Ray, Renoir - all the best of cinema; but in truth, there is no other film like it.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Funny and Emotional Ride,
This review is from: Shoot the Piano Player [VHS] (VHS Tape)Truffaut's "Shoot The Piano Player" is a remarkable thing: a funny and light-on-its-feet movie about despair. The director combines the grittiness of David Goodis' noir novel "Down There" with his own more optimistic humanism and the full stylistic arsenal of the French "New Wave" to create a film that manages to say as much about Art and Life as any really good, satisfying book. Charles Aznavour plays the timid Edouard, aka Charlie, a piano player in a cheap bar who is really a classical concert pianist hiding from a catastrophic, tragic history. A pretty new waitress knows who he is and encourages him to live again. But as in most American gangster movies, you can't run away from your past. Truffaut includes an amazing amount of philosophy about women, Fate, success, failure, marriage; all couched in a runaway style that is familiar to us today, but must have been shocking and exhilirating back in 1960. (The famous cut to the "old woman dropping dead" could have come directly from MAD magazine.) And who hasn't sometimes felt bedeviled by fortune and shyness: we greatly identify with Charlie. The comically incompetent yet sinister villains are also a great touch. This movie feels as fresh as it must have 40 years ago.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic movie filled with many wonderful moments,
Truffaut said this movie was "a grab bag." And it does seem to have everything in it but the kitchen sink: it's rooted in "B" Hollywood gangster movies, is a wonderful mixture of comedy and tragedy, and has almost no storyline. In fact, Truffaut throws the storyline to the wind: it's a picture of touches, of quick, fleeting moments, rather than narrative continuity. Its juxtapositions are wonderful: fame and obsurity, love and hate, gangsters with a sense of humor, lots of action and the desire to go and do nothing. It's a great movie - funny and sad - and one filled with many memorable moments. Definitely worth a watch.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly Bewildering and Innovative Cinema by Truffaut...,
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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Truffaut classic,
"Shoot the Piano Player" known in France as "Tirez sur le pianiste" is one of Fran?ois Truffaut's earlies works and is quite popular.
It is about a pianist working at a bar in Paris. Depressed over the suicide of his wife, he begins to fall in love witha waitress at the bar. The pianist's brothers have gotten into trouble with some mobsters and seek his help.
The Criterion edition is a double disc set with many extra features.
Disc 1 contains the film with optional audio commentary by film scholars, Annette Insdorf and Peter Brunette and a theatrical trailer.
Disc 2 contains interviews with Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois, director of photography Raoul Coutard, and Truffaut collaborator Suzanne Schiffman, Marie Dubois' screen test, excerpts from 2 documantaries on the film and the novel which the film is based on, and an audio essay on the film's music.
In addition the liner notes have 28 bages of other material.
This is the best edition of the film to get.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MR CHARLIE,
This review is from: Shoot the Piano Player [VHS] (VHS Tape)This luminous little movie contains 2 of the greatest scenes ever put on film. Charlie, a piano player in a seedy Paris bar, has locked away his heart so even he can't get to it. A young woman who works at the same bar is determined to crash through the wall he has constructed around himself. Through her, his painful past is discovered and the promise of the present ends in the disolution of hope. Truffaut is constantly surprising us with the unexpected. There are car chases & kidnappings & excapes and even oaths acted out; and all with an air of the inevitable. There's never been another film like it. The scene where the barmaid takes him home & they sleep together consists of 360 degree pans around the room with cuts of the couple settling into each others' arms as they sleep. It is one of the most poignant & beautiful scenes ever filmed. (The pans with goldfish feeding at the top of their aquarium are expecially touching.) And there is a scene of the hero Charlie, going to his piano audition, that is done with such economy of style that the mixture of clashing feelings comes flooding out. 'Don't shoot the piano player; he's doing the best he can.' Not to be missed.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An early Truffaut masterpiece.,
This review is from: Shoot the Piano Player (DVD)This was one of the movies that made me a fan of foreign cinema. I first saw it in college at a small art house theater that had been owned by Pauline Kael in Berkeley, before she moved to New York. Each film was accompanied by notes she had prepared. What a great way to start one's education in great movies.
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece,
This review is from: Tirez sur le pianiste (Original French Version with English Subtitles) (DVD)How on earth can I be the first reviewer of this movie -- one of the greatest "film noir" of all time -- in the same overall style as Grifters. It stars the enigmatic Charles Aznavour, one of France's legendary Tony Bennett singers and the lover of Edith Piaf in the late years of her melodramatic and tragic life.
Its story is sad and elegiac; the withdrawal from human interaction by Aznavour after the tragedy of -- well, watch the movie -- and his gradual reconnection, not of his choice, with the world of feelins. It is partly a thriller, sort of. It is funny. It is filmed in black and white and stylistically one of the finest films of all time. It has Truffaut's extraordinary gentleness and laconic casual style that can rise to an intensity of emotion that is devastating. There is a death scene that captures all his strengths in his handling of actors/actresses and mis-en-scene.
Truffaut seems somewhat out of fashion today. He is in the great tradition of the French humanists, most obviously Jean Renoir.
I hope a few film lovers come across my review. If you like Seventh Seal (Bergman), Les Enfants du Paradis (Carne), Jules et Jim (Truffaut) or Regle du Jeu (RenoirO then this is for you.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indescribable Crazy Quilt Classic,
I first saw this as a college student in the '60's. Back then it made a huge impact on me. I loved the informality, the spontaneity, the iconoclastic nature of the movie. It was obvious that Francois Truffault, the director, was a man deeply in love with movies himself. He paid homage to a wide range of American movie genres, yet he also could not be confined or contained by the so-called "rules" of filmmaking. His films seemed much more fun and loose than most of the other guys working in the New Wave.
Though it could be considered a "small" movie in the sense that it was inexpensive to make and was shot in B & W mostly on the streets of Paris, it is a much more expansive film. Part gangster/pulp, part crime noir, part love story, with all kinds of funny people, places and situations thrown--literally--together. Somehow it all works. There has never been another movie quite like it.
The movie can be appreciated on many levels. Edouard/Charlie: the same man, but two sides of the same coin. It's a great character study of a loner, a fascinating man with a singular talent who has been inevitably, inexorably drawn to trouble. We are enchanted by the beautiful prostitute who lives in his apartment and who shares his bed; the blonde wife of Edouard's successful classical piano years, who tragically commits suicide, the lovely young waitress who works at the bar where Edouard--now calling himself Charlie-- plays rinky-tink piano.
There are many memorable scenes: the night chase on foot which opens the movie, one man running into a lamppost and then engaging in a philosophical discussion with a passerby; the gangsters talking about wearing women's underwear and underwater fountain pens; the band at the bar, with the smiling, effervescent bass player; Charlie and the young waitress, in their Bogart-type trenchcoats, walking arm-in-arm down a rain-drenched Paris street, with Charlie, as nervous as a teenager on his first date, wondering to himself what his next move should be; the many interesting conversations and observations made while walking and riding around the streets of Paris.
This is a free-flowing pastiche of a movie which I found to be completely new and refreshing forty years ago as a young man. Since that time I've seen the movie countless times and I feel the same way about it now. It truly stands the test of time. This Criterion remaster is worth every penny.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offbeat, undisciplined, sprawling, funny, sad, goofy...A Coen Bros. movie before the Coen Bros. made movies,
Truffaut's second film, from 1960 (!), deals with a lot of Hollywood staples, but he freshens it up, even more than he appears to give himself credit for, with the very direct, very informal French style of movie-making (and, I'd also add, living). His bold confidence shows itself in the first scene. It begins in the middle of action, without explanation, and a character comes onto the scene who helps our protagonist and volunteers personal information. So he's going to be crucial to our plot, right? No, because he then exits and is never seen again. And guess what? --Our "protagonist" is actually not a very important character either. He just serves to introduce us to his brother, the *real* main character, and to get some small-time thugs on the brother's tail. (Has any other film dared to start like this, either before or since?) So you could argue he's a new twist on an old device, the maguffan. (And we all know how Truffaut loved Hitchcock.)
Structurally this film should just not work. There's a flashback in the middle that takes up half the film at least and introduces a new key character when we're halfway through the picture. Every film teacher would tell you that's "wrong." And for many critics, especially initially, the film didn't work. Reviews were lukewarm at best and for years this languished as one of Truffaut's lesser efforts. Yet it must have sunk in at least subliminally, because the irreverent tone, the loose unpredictability, the large cast, the fast pace and rapid cross-cutting, and the humorous asides (one thug swears to something on the life of his mother, and we cross-cut to his mother dropping over dead) have all found a home in the films of the Coens, Tarentino, Jarmusch, Altman and many others. Not to mention shooting outdoors at night without movie lights, shooting in real cars without projection backdrops, shooting on live locations rather than closed sets. Yes, the first thing that strikes you about this picture today is how modern it is. Watch a typical American film from 1960 for comparison.
There were a few things that left me unsatisfied. The character of the prostitute feels more like a gimmick, and we never resolve anything with her. The fight and subsequent stabbing of the bar owner also feels extraneous, as though it comes from nowhere and leads nowhere. And it's hard to imagine that our main character would still have his job in the bar after that! (He was cleared by the police awfully easily too. Or was that part supposed to make us laugh?) And somehow the ending was a *little* unsatisfying, though I'm not sure what I'd do differently. (Have him playing piano in a *different* bar perhaps?)
But these are relatively minor nitpicks. We're swept away and don't think about them too much. There's also this feeling we get from Truffaut that he's trying to wedge things in to experiment (the French New Wave was in its infancy after all), to see what can work and what can't. I'd rather have something too adventurous than dull.
What of the performances? The first thing you'll probably be struck by, especially if you're new to New Wave cinema or European film in general, is how naturalistic the acting is--it's much freer than Americans were accustomed to in 1960, free of many stage conventions we were still carrying around. In Charles Aznavour we have a Francois Truffautesque character (Truffuat in a supplementary interview, goes to great pains to point out how the main character is not typically French, but I think he's trying to distract us from how much the character is like *him.* I didn't really buy his contention, and I don't think it's evident in the film that Aznavour is Albanian and not French.) Marie Dubois and Nicole Berger are both wonderful in their roles, as Dubois in particularly is perfect as someone both pure and feisty--she is the backbone of the movie, and this part could have fallen apart if it had been miscast. Michele Mercier is charismatic and gorgeous and really really stacked, quite frankly. The two thugs are the perfect counterbalance to all the French angst we get from the main cast, and have provided inspiration to all the talky, haphazard and bumbling thugs that have graced countless American films since.
This Criterion print is extremely clean, in anamorphic widescreen. Sound is clear first-rate mono. Extras include lively commentaries from two Truffaut writers and film school professors, the original trailer, two interviews with Truffaut about the film and the book it comes from, interviews with others who worked with Truffaut, a discussion of the music scoring, and a fascinating screen test where Truffaut tries in vain to make Marie Dubois curse like a sailor (necessary for a scene in the film).
If you've never seen a Truffaut film, I'd suggest you start here--you'll be surprised by how modern it all feels. (You think post-modern irreverence in film is a recent invention, huh?) This film is a delight, and shows the tremendous artistic potential cinema had in the 1960s--potential that's been squandered in more recent times.
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Shoot the Piano Player by François Truffaut (DVD - 1999)
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