07/31/2014  
Queen Margot: 20th Anniversary Director's Cut on Blu-ray & DVD Aug 26Homeland: The Complete Third Season on Digital HD Aug 19/DVD & Blu-ray Sep 9Revolution: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray Combo & DVD Aug 19Cuban Fury on Blu-ray & DVD Jul 29Draft Day on Digital HD Aug 19, VOD Aug 29, Blu-ray Combo Sep 2Prom Night on Blu-ray and DVD Sep 9

follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

NE News Editor

Top Shots (Week of July 28, 2014)...
Queen Margot: 20th Anniversary Director's Cut on Blu-ra...
Allison Williams Will Be Flying High as Peter Pan in NB...
An Unlikely Hero Blooms in Ibiza: Orlando Bloom Sort of...
Drew Barrymore's half-sister found dead ...

JB Joseph Burke

The Answer to American Idol's Problems Is......
CONCRETE BLONDES...
CREAM FAREWELL CONCERT...
JACK REACHER...
MANBORG...

CA Chuck Aliaga

CORRUPTION (BLU-RAY)...
THE ATTACK (BLU-RAY)...
TANK GIRL (BLU-RAY)...
HORROR STORIES...
THE UNINVITED (BLU-RAY)...

RR Rich Rosell

THE GIRL...
THE HORDE...
LIFE IS SWEET (BLU-RAY)...
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO)...
THE BLUE ANGEL (BLU-RAY)...

MZ Mark Zimmer

BABY PEGGY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM...
STORAGE WARS: VOLUME THREE...
Take Part in a Film Restoration...
THE 39 STEPS (BLU-RAY)...
DARK SHADOWS: THE BEST OF BARNABAS...

JS Jesse Shanks

2 BROKE GIRLS...
DOWNTON ABBEY SEASONS ONE & TWO LIMITED EDITION...
FLORENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF THE RENAISSANCE...
NAZI COLLABORATORS...
KATT WILLIAMS: KATTPACALYPSE...

RJ Ross Johnson

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (BLU-RAY)...
PURPLE NOON (BLU-RAY)...
WEEKEND (BLU-RAY)...
JUAN OF THE DEAD...
THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE AND OTHER TALES OF VICE AND REDEMPTI...

JD Jon Danziger

SUNSET BOULEVARD...
SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM...
TABLOID...
CUL-DE-SAC...
3 WOMEN...

JC Joel Cunningham

YOJIMBO/SANJURO...
SUMMER HOURS (L'heure d'»t»)...
WIZARD OF OZ...
WINGS OF DESIRE...
HORTON HEARS A WHO!...

DH Dan Heaton

REVANCHE...
LAST DAYS OF DISCO...
NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS...
STARGATE SG-1: CHILDREN OF THE GODS...
STARGATE ATLANTIS: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON...

MS Matt Serafini

THE STEPFATHER...
THE HILLS RUN RED...
MANAGEMENT...
NIGHT OF DEATH...
GNAW...

KC Kevin Clemons

Freddy Got Fingered...

JU Jeff Ulmer

Secure The Second Season of The Border on DVD August 25...
THE WALTONS: THE COMPLETE 9TH SEASON...
Dance Me Outside kicks onto DVD May 6, 2008...

DD Dale Dobson

Film-Fest 4: Sundance 2000 & Hawaii...

RM Robert Mandel

Saving Private Ryan...

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif



Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

The Criterion Collection presents
Shoot the Piano Player (Criterion Collection) (1960)

"What you did yesterday stays with you today."
- Thérésa (Nicole Berger)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: December 05, 2005

Stars: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger
Director: Franćois Truffaut

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:21m:43s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 037429212721
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B A-

DVD Review

(Reviewer's note: what follows is a modestly amended version of my look at Fox Lorber's previous release of this same title. I admit to being more taken this time by Charlie's interior monologue, and the ways in which he's oblivious to the world, when he's not deliberately trying to keep it at a safe distance. Structurally, too, the movie seems tighter than I first appreciated—it's a move from the past to the present, from the city to the country, the kind of transition we associate more often with comedies—Bringing Up Baby would be the paradigmatic example. It's an oddly fatalistic story, at once about the possibility of redemption and the inexorability of fate. Watch it, at least twice.)

Oh, the perils of the sophomore jinx. After your first film is an extraordinary popular and critical success, like, say, The 400 Blows, what can you possibly do for an encore? (I know, I know—we should all have such terrible problems.) Franćois Truffaut took a fascinating turn the second time out of the gate, turning to an American pulp novel, Down There by David Goodis, and making it his own. He transposed the story from New York to Paris and retitled the resulting effort Shoot the Piano Player. (I'd recommend the Goodis novel, too, even just on its own terms, and it's in the Library of America's posh collection of 1950s crime novels.)

It's a peculiar, ambling movie, not quite a film noir though it's rich in atmospherics; too violent to be a light comedy, though there are plenty of good laughs; yet not menacing and dangerous enough to be a gangster picture, either. Charles Aznavour stars as Charlie Kohler, the piano player of the title; he's employed at a seedy nightclub, banging out adequate music so that the patrons will dance and then order more drinks. Lena (Marie Dubois), the waitress at the bar, holds a candle for him, but there's more pressing business, as his brother Chico (Albert Rémy), on the lam from some bad guys, seeks refuge in Charlie's bar.

It's a film that's richer in the details than in its cumulative power, and storylines start and stop abruptly, almost arbitrarily. You may be taken with this, and generally I was, though it seems like a misstep to have the extended voice-overs providing Charlie's interior monologue, his commenting on the events happening elsewhere in the frame. And it's even slightly confusing that another actor provides the voice of Charlie's internal thoughts. (It's a device that Scorsese borrowed for Mean Streets.) An extended flashback fills us in on how a man of Charlie's talents ended up playing in the house band in some dive, and why he's so skittish about the world in general, and women in particular. Charlie looks after his little brother Fido (Richard Kanayan), and yes, someone comments that it's more of a dog's name than a boy's; and when Charlie isn't around, Fido is tended to by Clarisse, the cheery hooker who lives next door, and seems happy to give it away for free when the piano man comes home.

Much of the movie seems casually tossed off, and just when you think Truffaut is getting hopelessly earnest, he provides a slapstick gag designed both to get a big laugh and to puncture all the grand existential rumblings. It's more of a rumination on the human condition than a well-constructed movie, though Truffaut does pull it together at the end for a beautifully shot climactic shootout in the countryside. (I'd wager that the folks at The Sopranos had this in mind for their terrific Pine Barrens episode, in the show's third season.) Aznavour has a great screen face, and we can see all his character's emotions flash past; it's also nice that the fact that he's shorter than just about every other adult in the cast is made readily apparent, without putting his leading lady in a ditch so that the star could manfully tower over her.

Jonathan Demme put Shoot the Piano Player on his all-time ten best list for Sight and Sound magazine, and you can certainly see an affinity between this movie and early Demme pictures like Something Wild—that ambling quality, that knowing wink at the audience which says, Yeah, the story may not be as tidy as some, but aren't these people interesting? Don't you want to spend some time with them? It's almost as if you can feel Truffaut finding his way as he goes, and while the destination may not be clear and the journey may not be the most direct one, it's a pretty canny little ride nonetheless.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A vast improvement on the previous release, Criterion's transfer shimmers, though the occasional jumpy frame fuels the suspicion that irreparable damage has been done to the source material, and that we won't ever see Raoul Coutard's photography glisten as brightly as it probably did nearly half a century ago.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The sound is modestly improved as well; though the capacity of the mono track remains limited, even if your French is as rusty as mine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Brunette and Annette Insdorf
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying booklet
  2. color bars
Extras Review: C'est formidable. Peter Brunette, of Wake Forest, and Annette Insdorf, of Columbia, cover lots of ground on the commentary track, examining the director's visual motifs, the relationship of the film to its source material, and the movie's place in Truffaut's career. Insdorf can get a little grand from time to time, but her back and forth with Brunette is very successful. This and an original trailer are on the first disc.

On the second, you'll find a raft of information on the creative team behind the film. First are two interviews with Truffaut—the first (09m:33s) is from 1965, the second (12m:15s) from 1982, and both linger over the director's relationship with Goodis's novel. A 2005 interview (23m:59s) with Charles Aznavour finds the leading man in fine fettle—he starts in English, then switches to French, to express himself with more nuance. He's charming, though this can be a bit aesthetically unpleasing, as his orange shirt clashes badly with the crimson couch on which he sits. Also from 2005 is a conversation (10m:03s) with Marie Dubois, who recalls meeting and working with Truffaut; and a wonderful 2003 interview (13m:42s) with Coutard, who discusses Truffaut going to school on Godard and his working methods while making Breathless.

Frequent Truffaut collaborator Suzanne Schiffman is up next, in outtakes (15m:27s) from a 1986 documentary on the director—she conjures up the happy memories of old times. The Music of Georges Delerue (17m:19s) is an audio essay on the film's composer by Jeff Smith—it provides a biographical overview, a look at his work on this film, and a necessarily very brief survey of some of the other 200 films (!) for which Delerue wrote the score. Perhaps most charming of all is Marie Dubois' screen test (02m:51s), in which she is encouraged to curse a blue streak, then blushes in embarrassment. The accompanying booklet includes an essay on the film by Kent Jones, an interview with the director, and his more extensive reflections on his leading actors. Also, a special shout out to Criterion for including postcards in each new release for other titles in their collection—collect 'em all!

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

An insinuating story that plumbs the psychological depths, Truffaut's second feature offers up many of its rewards only slowly—and Criterion's comprehensive new release of the title is as good a reason as any to savor its many pleasures. It's a great film, one that's sure to stay with you. Very highly recommended.

 


Back to top

Search 10,000+ titles:

or Advanced Search

DVD REVIEW ARCHIVE


Get FREE Shipping on all orders at TimeLife.com! - 120x90

 



Microsoft Store

Keywords

celebrity, david schwimmer, zoe buckmanm sex with strangers, drama, television, peter pan live, nbc, allison williams, christopher walken, richard greenblatt, brian williams, girls, orlando bloom, justin bieber, cipriani restaurant, fight, drew barrymore, jessica barrymore, dead, national city, california, john drew barrymore, morning talk, live with kelly & michael, kelly ripa, mark consuelos, david burtka, neil patrick harris, adventure, movie, chelsea handler, whitney cummings, sandra bullock, million dollar cowboy bar in jackson hole, wyoming, diane mcmanus, southern soul all stars, kevin smith, ben affleck, jennifer garner, mallrats, chasing amy, dogma, jay and silent bob strike back, batman v superman: dawn of justice, comedy, box office, movies, horror, music, nick jonas, jonas brothers, jason evigan, r&b, chains, donna dixon, bosom buddies, dan aykroyd, james brown biopic, get on up, saturday night live, doctor detroit, fx, fargo, martin freeman, billy bob thornton, allison tolman, animation, tca awards, breaking bad, true detective, matther mcconaughey, hbo, itunes festival 2014, september, pharrell williams, kylie minogue, maroon 5, david guetta, sam smith, blondie, beck, kasabian, philip seymour hoffman, february death, cooper, tallulah, willa, mimi odonnell, james cahill jr., david friedman, action, app, james garner, maverick, the rockford files, devine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood, 8 simple rules, the children's hour, doris day, reality, marvel comics, thor, femail, god of thunder, mjolmir, super hero

On Kindle!
On Facbook!
digitallyOBSESSED!
digitallyOBSESSED!
Promote Your Page Too
Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact