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Shoot the Pianist [DVD]
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François Truffaut portrays a film noir world of gangsters and intrigue, with Charles Aznavour as a famous concert pianist who leaves his former life behind to play in a sleazy Parisian bar. He gradually becomes involved the the criminal activities of the big-city underworld.
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Truffaut's film captures much of Goodis' book, but it goes its own way and stands on its own. Truffaut wrote the screenplay in addition to directing the film. The setting is moved from the gritty streets of Philadelphia that Goodis knew to Paris. The film's main character, Charlie, (Charles Aznavour) is a barroom pianist who had an earlier career on the concert stage when he was known as Eduard. Charlie has become a down-and-out loner when one of his brothers rushes into the bar needing help because he is being pursued by gangsters. At the same time, the bar waitress, Lena, (Marie Dubois) has recognized Charlie and fallen in love with him. The movie, as does Goodis' novel explores themes of love, loyalty to family, connectedness, and the power of music.
Truffaut's film has a lighter and different touch than the novel. The film has many more moments of comedy and satire than does the book. Charlie is a much more introspective, more shy character in Truffaut's portrayal. The film draws on slapstick, particularly in the portrayal of the vicious but still foolish gangsters, more than does the novel. There are long flashback passages in both film and book with character development more important than action. There is no happy ending, in either the film or the book.
With its setting on the streets of Paris and its impressionistic cinematography, the movie belongs in the theater. I saw the film in a large, beautiful theater as part of the annual "Noir City D.C." festival that I have come to look forward to every October. I became interested in film noir largely through my reading of Goodis and his diamond in the rough novels, including "Down There". I was grateful for the opportunity to combine my interest in Goodis and noir literature with the world of noir film by seeing this classic film as part of the annual film noir festival.
Otherwise a good transfer of a wonderful film.