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Sunday, June 1, 2008

SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (1960)

Just as classical & jazz musicians are often disparaged for having too much technique, Francois Truffaut has long been denigrated because of his preternatural facility with the medium. So, when his initial film (THE 400 BLOWS) achieved such a quick universal acclaim, it was just about inevitable that the hometown critics would attack his sophomore effort as jejune & facile. Let’s just say that the years have been noticeably kind to this marvelous off-kilter gangster dramedy. Composer/performer Charles Aznavour is perfect as the innocent man on the run from gangsters (it’s his brothers who’ve brought on all the troubles). He learns the hard way that it's better not to love at all than to have loved & lost. If the gag elements have been over-emphasized by advocates, there’s plenty here for just about any film lover. The final shoot out in the snow could have come straight from a D. W. Griffith film. That's Truffaut at his most daring & satisfying, squaring the circle but not rubbing our noses in it.

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