Tirez sur la pianiste (1960)

Nouvelle vague goes noir… slightly. Truffaut’s second feature, not quite so well-loved as the ones immediately before and after it, seems to have baffled viewers in 1960, and half a century later it’s still a damned strange film in some ways. The overall mood of the thing is something I can only sum up as serio-comic, cos it’s so odd somehow with its mix of styles and tones (including at least one moment of transcendently weird humour) I can’t really put my finger on the right adjective… at any rate, it left me wondering at almost every turn, and it has many. I actually have read the David Goodis novel this was based on but don’t remember it well, so can’t comment on its fidelity, but I like this quote from Truffaut: “At a certain point,” Truffaut said of Goodis’s books, “they go beyond the usual gangster story and become fairy tales.” I’m not sure his film quite does that, but it certainly goes some way beyond gangster film convention anyway; the feeling of someone rather self-consciously setting out to do something different with genre is still striking, and it still carries the film now. Whether Truffaut entirely succeded I don’t know, but I always did find the flawed masterpieces more interesting than the unblemished ones, so…

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