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Shoot The Pianist [VHS] [1960]

Charles Aznavour , Marie Dubois , François Truffaut    Suitable for 12 years and over   VHS Tape
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Actors: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Serge Davri
  • Directors: François Truffaut
  • Writers: François Truffaut, David Goodis, Marcel Moussy
  • Producers: Pierre Braunberger
  • Language: French
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Artificial Eye
  • VHS Release Date: 7 Jun 1994
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CNY4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,535 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

From Amazon.co.uk

The opening of Shoot the Piano Player, François Truffaut's second feature film, is one of the signal moments of the French New Wave--an inspired intersection of grim fatality and happy accident, location shooting and lurid melodrama, movie convention and frowzy, uncontainable life. A man runs through deserted night streets, stalked by the lights of a car. It's a definitive film noir situation, promptly sidetracked--yet curiously not undercut--by real-life slapstick: watching over his shoulder for pursuers, the running man charges smack into a lamppost. The figure that helps him to his feet is not one of the pursuers (they've oddly disappeared) but an anonymous passer-by, who proceeds to escort him for a block or two, genially schmoozing about the mundane, slow-blooming glories of marriage. The Good Samaritan departs at the next turning, never to be identified and never to be seen again. And the first man--who, despite this evocative introduction, is not even destined to be the main character of the movie--immediately resumes his helter-skelter flight from an as-yet-unspecified and unseen menace.

At this point in his career--right after The 400 Blows, just before his great Jules and Jim--the world seemed wide for Truffaut, as wide as the Dyaliscope screen that he and cinematographer Raoul Coutard deployed with unprecedented spontaneity and lyricism. Anything might wander into frame and become part of the flow: an oddball digression, an unexpected change of mood, a small miracle of poetic insight. The official agenda of the movie is adapting a noir-ish story by American writer David Goodis, about a celebrated concert musician (Charles Aznavour) hiding out as a piano player in a saloon. He's on the run as much as the guy--his older brother--in the first scene. But whereas the brother is worried about a couple of buffoonish gangsters, Charlie Koller is ducking out on life, love and the possibility that he might be hurt, or cause hurt, again. Decades after its original release, Shoot the Piano Player remains as fresh, exhilarating, and heartbreaking--as open to the magic of movies and life--as ever. --Richard T Jameson

Product Description

François Truffaut writes and directs this film noir set in an underworld full of gangsters and intrigue. Charles Aznavour stars as a famous concert pianist who leaves his former life behind to play in a sleazy Parisian bar. He gradually becomes involved in the criminal activities of the big-city underworld.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Asks the interviewer, "What place would you give Shoot the Piano Player in relation to your other films?" Answers director François Truffaut, "No place. Simply the second film I made." Considering his first feature film was The Four Hundred Blows and his third was Jules et Jim, Truffaut's matter-of-factness and lack of pretense is worth a smile.

Shoot the Piano Player is worth smiles, too. It's a clever film, playful at times, even funny. More than anything, however, it defies categorization. The movie is a strange and successful amalgamation of crime and comedy, suspense and inevitability, tragedy and love, and gangsters, girl friends and violence. It's the story of Charlie Koller (Charles Aznavour), a piano player in a Paris dive, who used to be Eduoard Saroyan, a famous pianist, whose wife committed suicide. Truffaut says the movie is a film about a shy man. Charlie is the kind of shy man who cannot bring himself to touch the hand of a woman he wants. He can't go back and open the door to the room where he left his wife sobbing. He thinks about what he should do, but can't do it, and then circumstances take over. Charlie, thanks to his brothers, finds himself in a gangland underworld where double-crossing is going to lead to a shootout in the snow. Some say Shoot the Piano Player is an homage to American gangster films. Perhaps it is, but I challenge anyone to spend much time considering this possibility while watching the movie. The film is original, funny, moving and sad. It's the kind of film that people who love movies write essays about. All I know is that I was moved by Charlie. We leave him where we met him, playing piano in a Paris dive.

Charles Aznavour, a diminutive man with a hangdog look, plays Charlie perfectly. Aznavour is probably better known in the U. S.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive film noir. 1 Oct 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Truffaut's masterpiece - a stunning journey into the heart of darkness at the centre of all film noir. It's all here - dimly lit tenements, sleazy dives, shadows and alleyways. And guns. Lots of guns. Paying homage to the classic RKO and Warner Bros gangster films of the 30s, 'Shoot the Pianist' became perhaps one of the defining achievements of a genre that is both hard hitting and beautiful. Seen Bryan Singer's 'The Usual Suspects'? Curtis Hanson's 'L.A. Confidential'? Joel Coen's 'Blood Simple'? Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction'? Watch this film and you'll realise just how powerful and defining a film this actually is. The story - club musician in trouble with the mob - is hardly the most original plot in a crime thriller (even when the film was made), but Truffaut strips away the conventions of noir to deliver something that is truly awe-inspiring and still has the power to shock...even over fifty years after it was made. See it, live it, love it.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I use the word 'emotional' a lot. It means everything to me 5 July 2001
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Truffaut said he realised, when filming 'Shoot the Pianist', a gangster film, that he hated gangster films. He shows his contempt most by consistently emphasising human truth over generic convention, but finally allowing generic convention to win brutally through. For Truffaut, genre is incompatible with humanity and its messiness.
Like many of my favourite films (and it is my favourite), 'Shoot' is a reworking of 'Vertigo', the story of a man who lets two women die because of his own emotional cowardice, leaving him in emotional shellshock. Aznavour's performance - and this isn't sufficiently realised - is one of the towering achievements of cinema, a complete, physical embodiment of diffidence, guilt, solitude and emotional paralysis, a man more lethal in his dithering passivity than murderous gangsters are in their violence.
Like all the best art, 'Shoot' is a tragicomedy, moving bewilderingly between the two moods, creating a devastating emotional texture - the hilarious scene where Charlie debates the best way to hold Lena only to tragically realise she's gone, or the frightening abduction scene that sees captor and juvenile captive argue comically over scarves.
As the title suggests, music is this film's soul, the only thing that can transcend genre for Charlie, the only way an emotionally dead man can feel.
Truffaut's restlessly inventive mise-en-scene, switching between studied artifice and breathless open air filming, is full of Hitchcock, Godard, Ophuls, Ray, Renoir - all the best of cinema; but in truth, there is no other film like it.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Funny and Emotional Ride 9 May 2003
By R. W. Rasband - Published on Amazon.com
Truffaut's "Shoot The Piano Player" is a remarkable thing: a funny and light-on-its-feet movie about despair. The director combines the grittiness of David Goodis' noir novel "Down There" with his own more optimistic humanism and the full stylistic arsenal of the French "New Wave" to create a film that manages to say as much about Art and Life as any really good, satisfying book. Charles Aznavour plays the timid Edouard, aka Charlie, a piano player in a cheap bar who is really a classical concert pianist hiding from a catastrophic, tragic history. A pretty new waitress knows who he is and encourages him to live again. But as in most American gangster movies, you can't run away from your past. Truffaut includes an amazing amount of philosophy about women, Fate, success, failure, marriage; all couched in a runaway style that is familiar to us today, but must have been shocking and exhilirating back in 1960. (The famous cut to the "old woman dropping dead" could have come directly from MAD magazine.) And who hasn't sometimes felt bedeviled by fortune and shyness: we greatly identify with Charlie. The comically incompetent yet sinister villains are also a great touch. This movie feels as fresh as it must have 40 years ago.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic movie filled with many wonderful moments 11 Jan 2006
By Bomojaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Truffaut's second film after THE 400 BLOWS, and it finds him experimenting all over the place. Charles Aznavour plays Charlie Kohler, once a very prominent concert pianist, but now playing honky-tonk in a back alley joint. Once he thought only of his great career, but in the process lost his wife to suicide (she slept with his promoter to help advance his career and he could never forgive her); now he wants only obscurity. But he inadvertently gets mixed up with a couple of thugs who are after his two brothers, and he falls in love with another woman (Marie Dubois). The thugs end up kidnapping Aznavour and Dubois, and although the two lovers had made plans that Aznavour would pursue his "career" again, fate seems to be against them: she is killed in a shoot-out at the end.

Truffaut said this movie was "a grab bag." And it does seem to have everything in it but the kitchen sink: it's rooted in "B" Hollywood gangster movies, is a wonderful mixture of comedy and tragedy, and has almost no storyline. In fact, Truffaut throws the storyline to the wind: it's a picture of touches, of quick, fleeting moments, rather than narrative continuity. Its juxtapositions are wonderful: fame and obsurity, love and hate, gangsters with a sense of humor, lots of action and the desire to go and do nothing. It's a great movie - funny and sad - and one filled with many memorable moments. Definitely worth a watch.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly Bewildering and Innovative Cinema by Truffaut... 20 Jan 2006
By Kim Anehall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Diverging is the first word that comes into mind after having seen François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player. The word in itself often brings to mind confusion and bewilderment, but this is not the case with Truffaut's film even though it is refreshingly surprising and innovative. The story presents one idea that delivers a new concept that becomes the parent of another fresh notion. A continual flow of new impressions allows the viewer to reflect for a brief second on the current state while awaiting the next sensation. Nothing is constant, as the story continuously provides new information, which after awhile begins to support itself in order to help generate different a thought altogether, as two different ideas converge where a third and unlikely concept emerges. Eventually the massive amount of thoughts delivers a complete and exhaustive idea - the show must go on.

Truffaut opens with the inside of a piano clinking away on a joyful tune. The massive number of keystrokes on the piano ultimately delivers the upbeat melody from the inside, which serves like a reminder to the audience about the complexity of a melody that rests in a large number of basic sounds. It could also analogously direct the viewer in to the concept of how basic elements in a series could present a rather complex idea, which the film also does in multiple levels. The inside of the piano could also symbolize the inside of a person, as people can talk about how they feel inside, and on occasion, the feelings emerge through actions. In either case, the complete truth might never appear, as a person has the power to decide what they say, or show through their actions. There are also moments when the spoken words conflict with the actions, yet life continues to run its course towards its unavoidable doom.

A jump cut, much used by Godard in his brilliant Breathless (1960) to save money, moves the audience from the piano to a man escaping something in the middle of the Parisian night. The scene provides a sense of urgency together through a number of intriguing camera angles that accentuate the stress until the man slams into a streetlight. The sudden stop provides an inspirational flash, as it surprises the audience while the question lingers in the air - from what is the man running. Consequently, a stranger appears and helps him up. Again, Truffaut astonishes the audience, as the stranger and the man begin an amusingly interesting conversation about relationships with women. However, the chase is not over, as the man continues his running escape until he arrives to a local bar where his brother Charlie Kohler (Charles Aznavour) works as a piano player.

Besides the scurrying getaway, the audience quickly learns that there is something mischievous in the works, as the man addresses his brother Edouard. However, for the viewer to guess will only get the audience in the wrong direction, as Truffaut intentionally uses visual syntax and signs in a deceptive manner. Everything that Truffaut does in the film breaks against the traditional visual narrative, which helps bring out the original experience that rests within the story. For example, Charlie, or should we call him Edouard, refuses to help his brother who is in deep trouble with a couple of pipe smoking gangsters. It also should be noted that the pipe is often one of the tools to symbolize the law enforcement such as Sherlock Holmes. Nonetheless, Charlie aids his brother in his escape, as his words also conflict with his actions.

In the process of helping his brother, Charlie ends up in trouble himself and he brings his neighbor Clarisse (Michèle Mercier) into the mess, as he sleeps with Clarisse almost every night. During the days, she takes care of his much younger brother Fido while she finds time in-between to make a living as a prostitute. Truffaut also provides a positive view of the oldest profession in the world, which also conflicts the cinematic norm of the time. At the same time, Charlie desires to approach Lena (Marie Dubois) who works as a barmaid at the same bar he plays the piano. While courting Lena more of Charlie's past surfaces, especially information in regards to his ex-wife Therese (Nicole Berger) comes forward in an extended flashback. After countless unexpected turns the film eventually will draw towards its end, as the story has many times circled the important aspects of life while never truly stated what is significant in life.

It is evident that Truffaut had a soft spot for film noir and gangster films, as he was also an expert on Hitchcock. He even published a book on Hitchcock. The gangster element is prevalent in Shoot the Piano Player, but it is far from the only important aspect in the film. Truffaut also touches on several issues that were important to him such as relationships and freedom. However, he does not continue in the same light, as filmmakers before him, as he bends and purposely breaks the many indoctrinated rules of cinema from before the 1950s. It is within the cinematic rebelliousness much of the diverging characteristics emerge, as Truffaut prompts a large number of ideas that at times seem to go wandering aimlessly. This directionless impression converges into new ideas that help strengthen the artistic perspective of the film. Ultimately, it allows the viewer to enter an utterly unique visual experience that will play with the audience's preconceived notions and assumptions, which will both intrigue and entertain those who desire something beyond the ordinary even though the film is over 50-years old.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Truffaut classic 23 April 2006
By Ted - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

"Shoot the Piano Player" known in France as "Tirez sur le pianiste" is one of Fran?ois Truffaut's earlies works and is quite popular.

It is about a pianist working at a bar in Paris. Depressed over the suicide of his wife, he begins to fall in love witha waitress at the bar. The pianist's brothers have gotten into trouble with some mobsters and seek his help.

The Criterion edition is a double disc set with many extra features.

Disc 1 contains the film with optional audio commentary by film scholars, Annette Insdorf and Peter Brunette and a theatrical trailer.

Disc 2 contains interviews with Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois, director of photography Raoul Coutard, and Truffaut collaborator Suzanne Schiffman, Marie Dubois' screen test, excerpts from 2 documantaries on the film and the novel which the film is based on, and an audio essay on the film's music.

In addition the liner notes have 28 bages of other material.

This is the best edition of the film to get.
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