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Shoot the Piano Player

(Tirez sur le pianiste)
France 1960. Dir: François Truffaut. 81 min. 35mm

Truffaut’s delightful, ironic second feature pays fond to tribute to Hollywood B-movies and is a central work of French New Wave cinema. Adapted from American pulp writer and noir staple David Goodis’s novel Down There, and shot by New Wave mainstay Raoul Coutard, the film stars singer Charles Aznavour as melancholic Charlie, a once-famous concert pianist now playing honky-tonk in a seedy Parisian bar. When his long-unseen brother pays an unexpected visit, Charlie finds himself in big trouble with gangsters. Truffaut’s film, like Godard’s Breathless, epitomizes the nouvelle vague sensibility: playfully mixing genres, radically shifting moods, punch-drunk with jump-cuts, in-jokes, cinema references, and self-reflexive touches. “The movie busts out all over — and that’s what’s wonderful about it ... Truffaut is freely inventive here — a young director willing to try almost anything” (Pauline Kael).


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REVIEWS

"At once more radical and more playful than any other film in Truffaut's career, and brimming with inspired touches that still seem surprising after a dozen viewings, much less one ... A movie-lover's movie."

A.V. Club | full review

"Truffaut shot many different sorts of pictures, but he rarely matched this one for casual magic."

Chicago Tribune | full review