Reviewed by Paula Delaney
Shoot the Piano Player – 1960 – dir. Francois Truffaut
This 1960 French film starring Charles Aznavour tells a story that has the ingredients of romance, drama, and comic tragedy. The main character, Charlie Kohler (Edouard Saroyan) is played by Aznavour in a persona that might remind one of Peter Sellers, due to his expressions of his emotions, or lack thereof. The film is in black and white and the cinematography is representative of foreign films at the time. The music throughout the film evokes a carnival type of atmosphere, and gradually heightens the irony of the plot.
The plot of the film is somewhat of a tangled web where Charlie, a hapless piano player, unwillingly becomes involved in his brother Chico’s drama of escaping from his former robbery accomplices. The adventures that follow for Charlie include some tender moments with women and some dramatic chase scenes where Charlie tries to escape his brother’s pursuers.
The romance of Charlie and Lena (played by Marie Dubois) is beautifully crafted, highlighted by a scene where they are driving through beautiful tree-lined, snowcovered roads and the viewer gets the extra bonus of hearing the “real” Charles Aznavour sing a tender love song. By the end of the film the viewer has a real sense of knowing Charlie. This is helped by the deliberate long close-ups of him at the piano at various stages of the movie. We observe the transformation of Charlie from a bored, disengaged bar pianist to one whose life experiences inject in him a profound sadness. This is vividly portrayed in the last scene.