Review: They Shot the Piano Player
- Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal's animated documentary is a love song for Brazil and its music and against dictatorships, which supports the figure of a forgotten and silenced artist
In 2010, film maker Fernando Trueba and his friend, illustrator, designer and creative artist Javier Mariscal released the film Chico & Rita [+see also:
interview: Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando
film profile], a delicious and sexy love story, brimming with music and romanticism, which won numerous awards from the European and Spanish film academies, among others, and even received a nomination from the Hollywood Academy. Some time the artists took on another creative project together, but this time with a different narrative structure: a animated documentary, They Shot the Piano Player [+see also:
film profile], which after several years of development is part of the Special Screenings (and out of the competition) in the Official Section of the 71st San Sebastián International Film Festival, having premièred at the Telluride and Toronto festivals.
This story follows Jeff Harris, an American journalist who began an investigation in 2010 to clarify the mysterious disappearance of the young Brazilian pianist Tenorio Jr in Argentina. With the idea of writing a book on the subject, the reporter visits the places where Tenorio lived, interviewing those who knew him and at the same time discovering a bubbling South American music scene, a place of joy and freedom that the dictators wanted to destroy.
The directors have used the voice of Jeff Goldblum (who starred in Trueba’s Dream of the Mad Monkey) to narrate this investigation that jumps from New York to Rio de Janeiro and to the 1960s and 1970s. They Shot the Pianist evolves as a journalistic reportage, involving numerous animated talking heads (Vinicius de Moraes, Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Paulo Moura, João Donato, Mutinho and Aretha Franklin, among others, who are shown "made up" by the colourful strokes of Javier Mariscal), which at times is almost a thriller, but without reaching a sufficient degree of suspense and mystery.
One could say that the film has something of fiction films such as Missing by Costa-Gavras and non-fiction like Searching for Sugar Man [+see also:
film profile], but it is lacking the high emotion charge of other films that also combine documentary and animation, such as Waltz with Bashir [+see also:
film profile] or Flee [+see also:
interview: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
film profile]. Naturally, the directors’ fascination for jazz, Brazil and bossa nova is evident in every shot of this film, managing to convey it to the audience, particularly through the recreation of the life and the performances of the missing pianist alluded to in the title.
They Shot the Piano Player is produced by Fernando Trueba PC and They Shot the Piano Player AIE (Spain), in collaboration with Les Films d'Ici Méditerranée (France), Submarine Sublime (Netherlands), Animanostra (Portugal), Gao Shan Pictures (France), Julian Piker & Firmin (Spain), Arte France Cinéma (France) and Producciones Tondero (Peru). International sales are handled by the British agency Film Constellation, and will be released in Spanish cinemas on 6 October, distributed by BTEAM Pictures.
(Translated from Spanish by Alexandra Stephens)
Photogallery 23/09/2023: San Sebastián 2023 - They Shot the Piano Player
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