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Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

Tirez sur le pianiste (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 23 July 1962 (USA)
2:25 | Clip

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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, ... See full summary »


François Truffaut


David Goodis (novel), François Truffaut (adaptation) (as F. Truffaut) | 2 more credits »



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Complete credited cast:
Charles Aznavour ... Charlie Kohler / Edouard Saroyan
Marie Dubois ... Léna
Nicole Berger ... Thérèse Saroyan
Michèle Mercier ... Clarisse
Serge Davri Serge Davri ... Plyne
Claude Mansard Claude Mansard ... Momo
Richard Kanayan Richard Kanayan ... Fido Saroyan (as Le jeune Richard Kanayan)
Albert Rémy ... Chico Saroyan
Jean-Jacques Aslanian Jean-Jacques Aslanian ... Richard Saroyan
Daniel Boulanger Daniel Boulanger ... Ernest
Claude Heymann Claude Heymann ... Lars Schmeel
Alex Joffé Alex Joffé ... Passerby
Boby Lapointe Boby Lapointe ... Le chanteur
Catherine Lutz ... Mammy


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


A Film for Adults See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

23 July 1962 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Shoot the Piano Player See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Les Films de la Pléiade See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (1963)

Sound Mix:



Black and White (Dyaliscope)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Because no funding was available from any of the studios, François Truffaut and his crew shot the film on the fly on the streets of Paris, often making up the script as they went along. The ending was decided on the basis of who was available at the time of shooting. 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: I'm fed up, do you hear, fed up! This is not life for an artist! Of course, I'm not a real great artist, but people must believe in me in order that I may become one. Good God, is it asking too much?
Thérèse Saroyan: If you think it doesn't try one's patience to live with you, you're mistaken! Ah, your conversation has really improved in a year! If people ask you what you think of Hemingway: "I hear he is a great collector of my recordings."
See more »


References Lola Montès (1955) See more »


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

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Waking the taste-buds of your heart
29 November 2007 | by little_brotherSee all my reviews

The opening scene is of a man running in dark streets. We only hear his steps and the menacing mechanical sound of traffic which we assume to be made by the pursuer. He collides with a post and is stunned. A man carrying a bouquet of flowers, helps him to his feet. As they walk, the man is expansive and briefly describes the course of his relationship with his wife, from simple selfish lust leading to marriage and only later, leading to true love. The man excuses himself, turning towards his home, and in an instant the original victim returns to his role as prey to some all-pervasive, inhuman, pursuer.

For me, this is Truffaut, the viewer identifying with the victim for a few moments, being safe in the domestic harmony of the man, only to be launched anew into the role of the hopeless quarry. The talkative man's recognition of his dependence on his wife contrasts with a later scene, in a car, where the two gangsters reveal highly cynical attitudes towards women. The irony is that their cynicism is capped by Charlie (Edward), who quotes his father as saying "when you've seen one woman, you've seen them all". It is significant how timid and respectful he is when daring to interrupt the macho diatribe of the two hoods. With this one statement, we have the background to the whole story.

Big brother, Chico, the "prey", needs help from Eddy, who is very reluctant to be drawn in, but family ties prove too strong. We see Chico as being a demanding,selfish, brute and can guess he takes after his father. We also guess where Eddy's timidity originates.

In the dialogue between Eddy and the brutish bar-owner, who is jealous of Eddy's attractiveness to the waitress, Lena, Eddy even offers to leave. When the bar-owner tells Eddy he is scared, Eddy repeats the phrase, playing with it as if it were a new flavour. This seems to be the ultimate in humility or humiliation, yet Eddy respectfully almost accepts it as advice. This short conversation suggests a life of victimisation, from father and big brother. Yet, most touching of all, is that his submission does not mask underlying contempt; Eddy still cares for the bar-owner as he does for his brother. Later, when the two are collapsed in the alley after a struggle, Eddy tosses aside his advantage of the knife and is then tricked by the bar-owner, who appears to be offering to make peace with a manly hug, but then attempts to strangle Eddy.

In his relations with Lena, Therese and Clarisse we witness tenderness, spontaneity, playfulness and trust. I don't know if it's my imagination, but these scenes seem to have brighter lighting. With each woman, there is a different mood. For instance, those involving Therese are all flashbacks and seem to involve more classical, static camera-work, lending an appropriate quality of distance. With Clarisse, the prostitute, there is bawdy, but innocent humour and no physical embarrassment, while with Lena there is adolescent awkwardness, reminiscent of Woody Allen, followed by such delicate, romantic scenes of physical discovery.

There are unexpected cameos, such as Boby Lapointe, in the bar singing "Framboises" and Fido, Eddy's kid brother being fascinated by the two gangsters who have kidnapped him. The final moment of the film, ignores the outcome of the feud between gangsters and brothers. We are only concerned with Lena.

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