Friday, November 24, 2023

They Shot the Piano Player

They Shot the Piano Player weaves together a fictional framework, true events, and real interviews to explore the disappearance of Brazilian pianist Francisco Tenório Júnior, and its wider implications, as well as the rising popularity of bossa nova music coming out of Rio de Janeiro in the previous decade. Originally writing a more lighthearted book about the the music of the period, our protagonist is introduced the work of a promising musician and begins pulling on the loose thread of Tenório's life.

Using a fictional stand-in voiced by Jeff Goldblum to carry the narrative and merge documentary footage, interviews taken over 15 years, and voice actors filling in gaps in the story, directors Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba celebrate the music that captured the world while at the same time digging into the ugliness of Operation Condor and the thousands who were disappeared, tortured, and murder in Argentina during the military dictatorship's state terrorism which ran from 1974 and 1983 including Tenório.

The animation has both an artistic and rotoscope feel, helping to add to both the beauty of the music and the harsh realism of the events in which it brings to the forefront. Goldblum's character fumbling his way through history and finding a more interesting story buried deep underneath his original subject matter mirrors that of our directors who use the framework to attempt to smooth over the rougher edges of the pivoting the film keeps making before settling on an idea about what it is really about and blend the deferent aspects of the film into a single narrative. While the journey it takes to unearth the story may be bit muddier than necessary, it is certainly worth your time.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: They Shot the Piano Player
  • IMDb: link

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