Rating 3 out of 5
Warning: French film, so you will have to read.
Plot follows a piano player, Edouard, who used to be famous, but now plays at a local bar. His brother pulled a heist, but double crossed some guys. The guys are pursuing his brother through him.
What I Liked: There were a lot of good moments to this movie. The scene where he is walking with Lena, deciding if he should hold her hand made me chuckle.
When the bad guys capture Edouard and Lena, the disucssion about driving and women that takes place was engaging. The two bad guys have a similar discussion later one with Edouard’s son Fido.
Showing the rise and fall of Edouard as a piano player, and his relatinoship with his wife by itself was a great short movie.
What I Didn’t Like: The film by the way it was edited felt choppy at times.
The final shoot out of the film was odd, in the fact that the bad guys shot Lena from very far away, but later when they are all battling in front of the house, they miss at point blank range.
The movie dragged at parts. At first you were wondering where it was going, so you forgave the pace. Then the proclamation of love between Lena and Edouard felt long.
The French La Novella Vogue (known stateside as the french new wave) remains one of the more influential and recognized film movements. Francois Truffaut was arguably the most popular of this league of filmmakers, (American audiences will recognize him from Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind playing Claude Lacombe) he is recognized widely for his debut feature The 400 Blows. Following the acclaim of his first film Truffaut set out to make a second film, he had a script that he gave to fellow filmmaker and cahiers du cinema writer Jean-Luc Godard which became 1960’s landmark film Breathless.
Truffaut also tried his hand at the crime genre that year with Shoot The Piano Player, while stylistically similar to Breathless, this film is far less focused and tight than the other film Truffaut might have made that year.
The film follows piano player Charlie Kohler (played by Charles Aznavour in a performance that lacks both passion and clarity) as he attempts to lead a normal life following a personal tragedy. He was once a famous piano player by the name Eduardo Saroyan, this piece of the narrative plays out over a brutally slow flashback that completely bloats an otherwise very brief film.
Truffaut’s direction is characteristic of many of his films, grainey, handheld camera work, often rather adventurous and playful with his composition choices, in both movement and framing. With that said his ramshackle film style does not always work in his favor, there is a short dialogue sequence between Charlie and his brother, where they walk the streets of france at night. I would imagine that for someone who understands french this is the most excruciatingly boring scene because if not for the subtitles there wouldn’t have been anything on screen, the whole scene was pitch black! The filmmakers of the french new wave often took to the streets instead of studios for their settings, however, this felt lazy and expressed a lack of thoughtfulness on the filmmakers behalf, it could’ve been shot during the daytime, or simply could’ve been filmed on a different street, then using the power of editing to create the illusion it was the sidewalk leading to the bar.
As for the whole film, that seems to be problem with the entire ordeal, from beginning to end, it all feels frivolous. There are scenes of moderate humor, some cute moments that harken forward to his later films such as Jules and Jim or Stolen Kisses in his whimsical approach to romance, but they don’t feel necessary. Even the best scene in the film in which two kidnappers talk casually to Charlie’s child, feels like an exercise in Truffaut’s own cleverness and wit, in this way it feels casually self indulgent. Truffaut threw all of his style at the wall and none of his substance or heart. The film is rendered as a playground for Truffaut to try some of his most immature and least coherent techniques. Often the plot feels distracted and confused about its own direction and none of his themes come into clear view. In the beginning one may think it’s a crime film, then in the next moment it’s a fairly standard drama and sometimes a love story, and none of this ever coalesces into a whole, all the threads end up loose and dangling. The film leaves no lasting impressions in it’s images or ideas. This film is a heavy come down after the sharp and sensitive, The 400 Blows, call it a sophomore slump.
Rating: 4 out of 10