venerdì 22 dicembre 2017

Shoot The Piano Player.


1960, Francois Truffaut

I almost look silly handing out two perfect scores two days in a row, but I was pleasantly surprised to have yet another film blow me away completely so soon. I’m not used to handing out these ratings, but Shoot The Piano Player absolutely deserves it for me. It’s Francois Truffaut’s second feature, after the stunning debut The 400 Blows, but it feels like a mix of Godard and Melville in a lot of ways. It has the melancholy noir of something like Le Doulos, with a shut-off main character who is constantly a victim of his surroundings, but the freedom and playfulness of something out of Godard’s early playbook.

Truffaut experiments a lot here with narrative structure and film techniques, making up plenty of it as he went along instead of sticking to a more traditional narrative. In fact, Player feels in many ways like a natural progression from The 400 Blows. His debut was all about the power of freedom, and he followed it up with one of the most utterly unleashed films I’ve seen. It’s New Wave in full form, as experimental as it is exciting. Truffaut molds plenty of genres together here, creating something that is part noir thriller, part pulp mystery, part dark character study and part satirical, self-referential, madcap comedy. It’s wildly fun all the way, but I was surprised by the more dark turns that it takes around the halfway point.

The most surprising aspect of it all is the fact that Truffaut manages to make it all work within one film. He combines all of these different tones, but it never feels like he’s trying to cram it all together, it flows so effortlessly and, again, free. Charlie Kohler is a superb lead character, played marvelously by Charles Aznavour. He’s a guy with a lot of pain in his past, and instead of letting that fall out all over the place, it stays inside the entire film. Kohler has shut himself off from the world and at the end of the film nothing has changed within him.

Truffaut uses voiceover to give us an inner monologue of Kohler, with the help of Aznavour’s expert stoicism, and it perfectly serves to get us into this man’s mind without betraying the character by opening him up to those around him. Kohler stays removed from the world, and I found a lot to relate to in the character. It’s a melancholic character study placed within a wickedly smart comedy placed within a dark and twisty pulp thriller.


Film #62 of The 365 Film Challenge.

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