(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#8) Shoot the Piano Player
Crime/Drama • dir. François Truffaut • 1960 • France
I know it sounds hopelessly corny, but it’s hard to love film without eventually also loving François Truffaut. Why? Because if you ever go in search of cinema’s beating heart, sooner or later you’ll find him. Like a Scorsese or a Tarantino, he turned to making films only after loving them first – as a kid and then a critic. And he never fell out of love. Through all his films, it’s obvious: he loves his characters, loves the coats they wear, their scarves, the way they ready themselves in mirrors. He loves the places they go, the streets and cities where they walk, and the foibles that help to make them who they are. As principal players in cherished imaginary worlds, they’re unfailingly given the benefit of doubt – Truffaut’s version of nobody’s perfect unsullied by cynicism and fortified by empathy.
Has there ever been another filmmaker who takes so much pleasure from the possibilities of film? One, at least, who does so without ever leaving the audience behind? Truffaut’s films are not weirdly abstract, or lacking completely in familiar conventions, but they are always fresh (even now); the smaller, winding tributaries of a river rather than the oft-travelled river itself. He doesn’t only allocate screen time according to the demands of a plot, and, instead, is playful and hard to second-guess. Where we are so used to seeing the churning cogs of a narrative, sometimes well oiled, sometimes less so, Truffaut offers a cinema of moments, of conversation, flirtation, desire, folly, chance encounters and charm. Shoot the Piano Player, for instance, is equal parts love story, gangster film and comedy. Yet also none of these things in the ways we’re used to seeing them. Catching up and catching on has never been more fun.