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Shoot the Piano Player
1960 - Not Rated - 85 Mins.
Director: François Truffaut
Producer: Pierre Braunberger
Written By: Marcel Moussy
Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Mich
Review by: John Ulmer
François Truffaut's second feature, 'Tirez sur le pianiste,' is a deliberately wild and chaotic satire of the American gangster pictures of the '30s, '40s and '50s. Truffaut tried to make 'Tirez sur le pianiste,' or 'Shoot the Piano Player,' the complete opposite of his first picture, 'The 400 Blows,' doing away with the sentimentality of the predecessor and making his second feature far more vicious, nonlinear and, occasionally, quite funny.

Based on a pulp novel by David Goodis, the movie is about a once-famous piano player (Charles Aznavour) who gives up looking for the reason his wife left him, and now plays piano in a run-down Paris bar where he falls for a waitress, and must overcome his natural shyness in order to express his love for her. Unfortunately his brother gets him involved in a gangland feud, which brings an unnecessary (but welcome) edge to the romance.

There are some highly amusing scenes, such as when Charles and his soon-to-be-girlfriend walk down a Paris sidewalk and he contemplates what to say, do, and how to act, without offending her or making a fool out of himself. We hear Charles' neurotic thoughts in voice-over. It's one of the best scenes in the movie, and a great way of expressing Charles' inner-workings.

'Shoot the Piano Player's' chaotic structure confused and overwhelmed many audiences when the film was released in 1960. Its content (violence, nudity, etc.) was not as acceptable to audiences as it is now, and as a result the film was a financial and critical failure. The humor was not appreciated, the insightful look at a French everyman was overlooked.

Over the years it has picked up a small cult following and fans of Truffaut's films have declared it to be one of his best pictures. In retrospect, when one considers recent gangster genre hybrids as 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,' Truffaut's movie not only seems understandable but far ahead of its time.

In relation to 'Reservoir Dogs' it has the same sort of standard, everyday nonchalance in accords to its gangsters – while it contains a similar narrative flow to that of Guy Ritchie's British gangster idie.

Regardless of how brilliant 'Shoot the Pianist' seems forty years later, Truffaut was scarred by the negative press surrounding his second feature and never made another movie as daring (so to speak) or, downright fun as 'Tirez sur le pianiste.' It's a very amusing movie, and it is one of the few 1960s films that doesn't seem dated compared to the filmmaking standards of modern-day Hollywood. The performances are flawless, the characters likable and realistic, the movie overall highly enjoyable and worth seeing more than just once. It is sadly, one of Truffaut's most underrated movies.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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