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, ...
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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
French gangster thriller that hits all the right notes
Shoot the Pianist is Francois Truffaut's attempt at mirroring the greatness of the classic gangster films. And suffice to say; it is a very nice attempt indeed. The film follows Charlie Kohler, a simple bar-side piano player. Charlie's life takes a turn for the more exciting one day when his brother turns up at the bar, telling his brother that a couple of gangsters that he and his other brother cheated out of their side of the loot from a job that the four did together are after him. Charlie also has a secret admirer; Lena, a barmaid at the bar he works in. Now this once simple piano player has gone from a quiet life at a piano to having to deal with gangsters, his brothers and a new love interest. But wait...there's more; is Charlie all that he seems? Is he merely a simple piano player? That's what makes this film great; it's never black and white (if you'll excuse the pun), and it is always ready to throw in another plot turn to keep you guessing.
After the universally acclaimed "The 400 Blows", Francois Truffaut had his work cut out for his next movie. Many will disagree, but I actually think he surpassed it. The 400 Blows is undoubtedly a more important work; but this film hits more of the right notes and is very much more enjoyable. The cast is absolutely flawless throughout; Charles Aznavour stars in the lead role. He gets his characterization spot on; his melancholy comes naturally and is believable throughout. Marie Debois and Nicole Berger star alongside Aznavour, and although they are more in the background; they still manage to impress. There is also a role here for Michèle Mercier, whom you may remember from the Mario Bava masterpiece; Black Sabbath. Truffaut's cinematography is clean and crisp and the film is an aesthetic treat throughout. Despite being nearly 45 years old, the film also manages to retain a feeling of freshness, and that's something that not all crime thrillers of today can do after 4 years, let alone 45. Truffaut has also very obviously got an astute sense of humour - there's one part of the film involving one of the gangster's mother's dropping dead that made me laugh out loud. Let it never be said that the French can't be funny
The film features many anecdotes that ring true. My personal favourite is when Lena says that what you do today becomes a part of you tomorrow. It's simple, but very astute. Another good one is when one of the gangsters talks about all the lovely gadgets he has, and after listing them all he finishes with; "I'm bored". Truffaut obviously knows that material goods aren't what make people happy, and this film presents a rather amusing way of showing that. However, despite these and several other anecdotes; the film doesn't appear to have a defining point, which lessens its impact somewhat. Overall, however, Shoot the Pianist is a lovely little film that shouldn't be missed by anyone that professes to like gangster movies. It's amusing, has some points to make and its flawlessly acted and directed. Highest recommendations for this one.
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