Shoot the Piano Player

Concluding SIFF's French Crime Wave series, François Truffaut's second feature is a movie that, in 1960, shifted registers and combined genres with such blithe aplomb that few contemporary critics seemed to remember it had ever been done before. Piano Player is the most purely enjoyable movie Truffaut ever made. It's also the quintessential nouvelle vague film, a blatantly cinephilic combination of vivacious vogueing and soulful sentimentality. The movie has a nominal, tragic gangster plot (adapted from David Goodis' 1956 pulp novel Down There) but, hardly a hardboiled noir, it's pure atmosphere. Powered by Georges Delerue's haunting score—mainly the sad, jaunty tune that the eponymous pianist Charlie (singer—but not here—Charles Aznavour) pounds out in a neighborhood saloon at the movie's beginning and end, Piano Player is the essence of a drizzly autumn afternoon in some shabby arrondissement. (NR) J. HOBERMAN

Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., 2009

 
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