RARA-AVIS: RE:Titles & Pianists Wrapup?

From: billha@ionet.net
Date: 21 May 2000

Can't remember who wrote what in this thread, but the film Tirez sur le Pianiste
(hope I'm remembering spelling) was released as Shoot the Piano Player in the States and Shoot the Pianiste in the UK, according to my (UK) reference. The title reverses the "Don't Shoot the Piano Player..." that was supposed to be common in Western saloons, but most famously observed, I believe, by Oscar Wilde during his lecture tour in the 1880s. I saw it a few weeks ago, and there's no Ne or "Don't" in the titles.

The reverse of the common saying, I've always supposed, was a deliberate noir touch, but also in keeping with the many allusions in the film to things American, including noir movies. Although Hollywood tried a remake of one New Wave noir homage, Breathless, it would be much harder for Shoot the Piano Player, since it was itself parodic in places, with gangsters who talk about their latest mail order gadgets (an air-conditioned hat) and shoot repeatedly without ever having to reload. Of course the pianist doesn't die, just the girl, which is, ironically, quite appropriate to the original genre.

As to its obscurity, it was and is revived regularly; it's "known" by film students and film studies folks. It, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, and possibly Day for Night, are enshrined in textbooks--basic introductions to film for undergraduates. In interviews with contemporary American film makers, Truffaut is probably mentioned more than Goddard as an influence. Many of today's film makers first saw the possibilities of film through the New Wave directors, who were themselves influenced by the noir of Old Hollywood. What's really interesting is to see something later, like Diva, or (better) The American Friend (adapted from a Highsmith Ripley), which seem "aware" of both the original noir and the New Wave variations on noir.

Bill Hagen

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