Shoot the Piano Player

Shoot the Piano Player ★★★★

Godard and Truffaut were playing a bit of cinematic tag back in '59 and '60. Truffaut's success with "400 Blows" spurred Godard to make "Breathless." Godard's debut was more formally daring and Truffaut's was clearly inspired by his mate/rival's radical technique. His response was "Shoot the Piano Player." Both are very loose re-imaginings of an American gangster genre with some form of a love story at its center. The rest is very different.

Truffaut crafts a pastiche of genre references that's more of an homage than a cool deconstruction. His affection for the source material and for his characters was obvious. The protagonist is a likable forlorn figure, even his gangsters are funny and kind of silly types. The film has a freewheeling structure where the way each scene plays is more important than any sort of a narrative cohesion. Truffaut intersperses the action with a lot of lyrical and comedic asides, giving "Piano player" a playful, warmer feel. In terms of technique, Truffaut chose the hybrid way, mixing classical and handheld, cut-up elements. There is an improvisational, make up as you go along quality.

"Breathless" had a certain visual iconography that "Piano Player" doesn't quite match, but the latter might be a movie you want to spend more time with.

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