Shoot the Pianist

Francois Truffaut, France, 1960, 80 minutes

Textbook New-Wave stuff from Truffaut in this tale of a cafe pianist wfth a past. All the telltaale signs are there - the playful combination of genre (thriller, gangster movie, romantic melodrama, comedy); the revelling in the various means of altering the way in which narrative is driven such as the use of unconventional editing or the employment of irises to highlight important details; realistic locations and sound as exemplified in the cafe sing-song at the beginning, and also the fact that Tirez sur le Pianiste is adapted from a contemporary novel (Down Here by David Goodis).

What makes Truffaut's second feature such a delight is the almost tangible passion for the nistory of cinema, its language and conventions, and the artistic possibilities offered by their innovative adaptation and re-interpretation. But don't let the label of artiness put you off. Truffaut was thankfully not so stuffy as to forget that the best movies can be funny as well as clever. Witty dialogue and thoroughly inventive visual humour are equally important elements in the composition of the film's considerable charm. Charles Aznavour, as the eponymous pianist, is ideally suited as the altemately tragic and comic hero and coasts effortlessly through the sudden changes of mood.

Review by Iain Harral
Taken from EUFS Programme 1995-96