"Shoot the Pianist," (1960), a black and white drama/thriller/romance/crime picture was only the second film made by the now near legendary French screenwriter/director, Francois Truffaut. (The Francois Truffaut Collection - 6 Disc Box Set (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD] ). He made it, as it happens, after his initial masterwork,400 Blows (Les 400 Coups)  [DVD]; so that it was looked at a little quizzically at the time of release: however, now that 50 years have passed, I think most film critics would say that, though it is not in the class of "400 Blows," it is still a notable achievement in French cinema. The film, another of Truffaut's odd little melodramas, was written and directed by Truffaut, based on the American David Goodis's novel "Down There,"Black Box Thrillers: Nightfall; Down There; Dark Passage; The Moon In The Gutter (Omnibus). Many critics have noted the apparent influence of the famed Anglo-American director Alfred Hitchcock's great film Vertigo [DVD] upon it. "Shoot" gives us early uses of improvisation, and voice-overs; and a lovely score by Georges Delerue. The well-known French singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour (20 Chansons D'or) stars, playing Edward Saroyan, famous concert pianist, who, in reaction to reverses in his life, takes the name Charlie Kohler, and plays barroom piano. Seems to me that, in consideration of Aznavour's relatively inexpressive face, Truffaut has taken care always to provide the singer with experienced French actors to play off, principally Marie Dubois (Jules et Jim [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]) as Lena, the barmaid who loves him; Albert Remy (The Train [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]) as his brother Chico, and Claude Heymann (Lola Montes [Blu-ray]  [US Import]) as the impresario Lars Schmeel. There's a scene in this movie that's studied in every film school: the long tracking shot of a woman violinist leaving the impresario's office as Saroyan begins to play. Truffaut used the threatening snow-bound cottage at the end again, to less tragic effect, in Mississippi Mermaid [DVD] . The greatest movie ever made it is not, but if you're interested in French cinema, or the finest directors of the 20th century, it's worth seeing.
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