Play It Again, François

The French New Wave blew a hurricane gale of fresh air into the stultified, hierarchical conventions of late-'50s world cinema, which continues to fill the sails of young filmmakers to this day. We all know — or think we know — the hallmarks of the nouvelle vague: sexy, street-smart scenarios infused with breezy romanticism and fatalistic existentialism, played out in actual urban locations. (It’s funny, and sad, how a defiantly personal cinema becomes codified into a formula after enough generations.) What’s often forgotten, though, is that Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and their peers didn’t just reject French classicism, but embraced American pulp fiction. Instead of Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Émile Zola, they adapted Cornell Woolrich and David Goodis. Shoot the Piano Player, François Truffaut’s invigorating and bluesy 1960 follow-up to his autobiographical breakthrough, The 400 Blows, uses Goodis’ saga of a musician’s doomed foray into the underworld to brilliantly reinvent the logic and language of movie storytelling. Both of its time and ahead of its time, Truffaut’s masterpiece retains all its freshness, charm, and melancholy aftertaste 50 years on.
Sun., May 23, 2 & 4 p.m.; May 23-24, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2010

 
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