Shoot the Piano Player Francois Truffaut

The most leisurely and open-hearted of crime melodramas, this second feature by new wave giant Francois Truffaut showed what he might have become had he not lapsed after Jules and Jim into fatuous self-regard. Charles Aznavour is the titular pianist, an ex-concert artiste who blew off his fabulous career after his long-suffering wife committed suicide. Back on the skids from whence he came, he becomes embroiled in a kidnapping plot after his criminal brother screws up yet again. Of course, plot isn't quite the main event with Player, as it has to share space with Truffaut's playful approach to time and structure, to say nothing of apparently extraneous bits that add nothing to the story but give everything to the texture and tone. It begins with a minor character distracted by a talkative stranger and the rest of the film is just as free-associative, choosing to litter the screen with choice bits and doodle in the margins that the narrative provides. It's a lovely film, perhaps not the masterpiece that Truffaut-heads would have you believe but still it's a wonderfully creative romp that despite its fatalistic crime plot makes you feel that the world is big and full of possibilities. Disc one features a commentary by scholars Annette Insdorf and Peter Brunette that's a little too precious for my taste; disc two features a couple of fascinating vintage interviews with Truffaut, new video interviews with Aznavour, love interest Marie Dubois and famed cinematographer Raoul Coutard, all of whom provide riveting details. There is also a rare interview with Truffaut fellow traveller Suzanne Schiffman, who sketches the new wave scene most vividly, a terrific "audio essay" on Georges Delerue's score and Dubois's screen test. A booklet features notes by Kent Jones, as well as an interview with and essays by Truffaut. (Criterion/Paradox)