Shoot the Pianist (1960)
"Tirez sur le pianiste" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  23 July 1962 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 12,128 users  
Reviews: 55 user | 66 critic

Charlie Kohler is a piano player in a bar. The waitress Lena is in love with him. One of Charlie's brother, Chico, a crook, takes refuge in the bar because he is chased by two gangsters, ... See full summary »



(novel), (adaptation) (as F. Truffaut) , 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Thérèse Saroyan
Serge Davri ...
Claude Mansard ...
Richard Kanayan ...
Fido Saroyan (as Le jeune Richard Kanayan)
Albert Rémy ...
Chico Saroyan
Jean-Jacques Aslanian ...
Richard Saroyan
Daniel Boulanger ...
Claude Heymann ...
Lars Schmeel
Alex Joffé ...
Boby Lapointe ...
Le chanteur
Catherine Lutz ...


Charlie Kohler is a piano player in a bar. The waitress Lena is in love with him. One of Charlie's brother, Chico, a crook, takes refuge in the bar because he is chased by two gangsters, Momo and Ernest. We will discover that Charlie's real name is Edouard Saroyan, once a virtuose who gives up after his wife's suicide. Charlie now has to deal wih Chico, Ernest, Momo, Fido (his youngest brother who lives with him), and Lena... Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 July 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Disparen sobre el pianista  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film was released in France under the title, "Ne tirez pas sur le pianiste" ("Don't Shoot the Piano Player"), or the exact opposite of the title in the United States. See more »


When Lena and Charlie walk home after work you can see the shadow of the camera on their coats. See more »


Charlie Kohler: When my love turns to hate, I'll wear a cap as I go.
See more »


Featured in Uuden aallon jäljillä (2009) See more »


Dialogue d'Amoureux
Written by Félix Leclerc
Performed by Félix Leclerc and Lucienne Vernay
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

9 out of 10
18 September 1999 | by (Cologne, Germany) – See all my reviews

Masterful French director François Truffaut followed up his hard-hitting, absorbing, highly acclaimed drama LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS (1959) with a original film noir comedy, which is also considered one of his masterpieces and one of the most important movies of the Nouvelle Vague. Based on the US crime novel "Down There" by David Goods his visually fascinating, humanistic, clever and inventive comedy drama uses the story of a lonely, melancholic cafe piano man who through his criminal brothers gets into trouble with some gangsters and at the same time falls in love with a beautiful servant who discovers his past as a famous classic pianist only as a frame to make his own statements about relationships between men and women, success, glory, downfall and failure and at the same time paying a affectionate and ironic homage to the clichéd, low-budget Hollywood gangster films of the 40s and 50s. Though one could argue about the confuse narrative, this is a unique film experience with a virtuous cinematic style and many wonderful moments.

Vanilla and Raspberry. One of the funniest, most memorable, though also narrative-wise most unnecessary scenes has the real-life Parisian club singer Boby Lapointe delivering a vulgar, fast-paced song named "Vanilla and Raspberry" about the breasts of a woman. Add to this a handful of other plot-ignoring sequences that are masterfully directed, outstandingly acted and very well-written and you have seen the best parts of the movie. The main plot only holds together what usually wouldn't click together. There's a lot of comedy, a lot of melancholy, a lot of tragedy, a lot of pathos, some funny songs, strange locations, interesting characters and so on. It's really a work of a free-spirited artist trying everything to surprise his audience instead of boring it with a conventional plot. That's why the viewer is never sure what's going to happen next and so it's despite some lengthy dialogue and calm scenes pretty suspenseful. Another element that turns this patchwork into a near-masterpiece of cinematic history is Truffaut's use of awesomely beautiful cinematography, rough, unexpected cutting, unusual visuals composed in rhythm with the excellent score by Georges Delerue and a scene-setting voice-over by the hero. François plays with the visual concept of the story (it's a ironic comedy about melancholia with optimistic views on life and love set in a dark, nihilistic world!) and pretty much forgets about it in favour for hilarious moments like when one of the characters swears to tell the truth and if he doesn't his mother shall die immediately, Truffaut cuts to a old woman falling down in her room and back. Or when the scene of the cafe owner telling the bad guys where the piano player lives is split into three singular takes sharing the screen. There are plenty of other memorable moments like these and they're also magnificent. The perfect cast also delivers the goods. The sad-faced, but ultimately likeable Charles Aznavour, who was a popular singer in France, excels in the lead combining the elegance of a shy artist playing the tunes of Chopin and the coolness of a everyday piano player doing his job in a little cafe. The supporting actors are also fine, especially Jacques Aslanian has some scene-stealing moments as the bully and rude brother of Aznavour and the two women (the magnificent Nicole Berger and the wonderful Marie Dubois) playing the pianist's love interests are tremendously good.

18 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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