Thursday, May 10, 2018

Now on FilmStruck: Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

Shoot the Piano Player (1960) - Directed by Francois Truffaut; Written by Francois Truffaut, Marcel Moussy; Starring Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger.

By Kenny Howell

After many months away, I have restarted my FilmStruck subscription and what better to dive back in than with a visit with Monsieur Truffaut.

The eight regular readers of this site will know that I am a former journalist that worked for three different newspapers, one of which is still in business. The writing was on the wall, so I left the industry about a year ago. I had to cut back on some expenses so my kids could have things like food and clothing. One of the things I gave up was FilmStruck, the excellent streaming service that is a mixture of Criterion and Turner Classic Movies. It is a must have for film fanatics, and is worth the $12 a month. You have a seemingly countless number of classics, some that used to be hard to find, at your fingertips.

Now that I got my advertisement out of the way (free FilmStruck please), lets get on to the man Truffaut. When I was younger, 18, in film school and taking in all these films I had no idea existed, I latched onto the French New Wave. I didn't really understand a lot of it, especially Godard (which I still don't get a lot of the time), but there was something about it that was incredibly engrossing. Despite not understanding him, Godard was the guy I was obsessed with first. He was the biggest rulebreaker, the biggest rebel, and I liked to think I was one of those upper middle class suburban kids who could stick it to the system, though in reality any sort of stepping out of line gives me overwhelming anxiety. He was the guy I really wanted to be. All that being said, Breathless really kind of woke me up to the control a filmmaker could have over a single work. And it is still one of my favorites to this day.

Over time, Truffaut and Chabrol became the guys I became obsessed with. Godard definitely new how to deconstruct a story, smash it all to pieces, but I feel Truffaut especially knew how to take the next step and put it back together. Shoot the Piano Player is a perfect example of that. In lesser hands, it would be a scatterbrained mess. There are so many tones and avenues that it goes down, but somehow Truffaut seamlessly weaves it together into a tight little masterpiece.

It follows the story of a Charlie (Charles Aznavour), a former concert pianist that is now playing in rowdy bars. His brother comes wandering in one day saying he needs help because two men are after him. From there, Truffaut does with it what a lot of his films did. It becomes an energetic ramble through Paris as Charlie deals with his brother's problems, the women in his life and his own past. It was the follow up to The 400 Blows, which it definitely is not, but it is a perfect example of Truffaut's strength as a filmmaker that he repeated numerous times over the years.

Shoot the Piano Player is now streaming on FilmStruck.

Rating: ****

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