I have really not been much of a booster of the French New Wave cinema of the 1960s. I tend to become exasperated with their intellectual high-mindedness and roll my eyes at their sentimentality. The one exception I’m finding is the films of Truffaut. Unlike Godard and Roemer, Truffaut actually seems to want to make movies, instead of films (actually, I suspect that the pseudointellectual Godard secretly wanted to write Marxist manifestos, and Roemer — who I actually do grudgingly respect — wanted to write really, really boring novels).
Nowhere is this impulse more apparent than in Shoot the Piano Player, which is damn near Tarantinoesque in its love for cinema. Truffaut gives us wisecracking gangsters, random voiceovers, gunfights, musical numbers, over-the-top melodrama, some beautiful cinematography, and, right in the middle of the film, a long flashback so well-developed that it basically serves as the complete prequel to the movie you’re watching. And no mere exercise in style, it’s all in service of Truffaut’s themes of the tension between art and commercialism, and between family and the individual. And it’s all packed into a lean 82 minutes. I really liked this movie a lot. I may have to add a few more Truffaut films to my Zip List.