I can't even describe what was wrong with the film. One, because I'm not that good at in-depth analysis. I either get an emotional reaction from a film or not at all. This film would fall in the latter category. Two, there really weren't any technical issues with the film.
The plot was great, perhaps the best part of the film. It concerns Charlie, a pianist with a dubious past. Charlie is trying to go incognito at a bar when his life is interrupted by the arrival of one of his older brothers, Chico. Chico is being chased by two men because he and Charlie's other older brother duped the men out of a large sum of cash from some criminal activity. Though at first reluctant to help his brother, Charlie ends up doing so. The men then begin tailing Charlie and Lena, a waitress at the bar where Charlie works. A relationship blooms between Charlie and Lena, ultimately ending in tragedy. Charlie's past is revealed in a glorious flashback sequence and, by the end of the story, he ends up in a place much like the one he was in at the beginning of the film. The final shot of the film, showing an expressionless Charlie playing the piano, is quite moving.
I think one flaw of the film was making us like the two men chasing Charlie (let's call them the kidnappers), whereas we are made to loathe Charlie's brothers. The scenes with the two kidnappers were hilarious, especially when they managed to get their victims in a car (Charlie and Lena in one scene; Fido, Charlie's younger brother, in another). The dialogue in those scenes is priceless. It almost makes us sympathize with the two men. Meanwhile, we have Charlie's brothers who celebrate Charlie coming down to their level after Charlie commits murder. I understand why we are meant to dislike the brothers. It shows the lack of control that Charlie has over his life. It shows his powerful restraint in trying so hard to distance himself from his ne'er-do-well brothers and from his past, yet failing most tragically. But, making the two kidnappers likable made the film feel unbalanced, as did the rush ending. And what a frustrating ending it is. I love a film where, even though you don't know what is going to happen next, when it does happen you feel like it fits; you feel like you saw it coming, even though you actually did not. The ending in Shoot The Piano Player feels like a cop-out. While we never expected it to end in such a deplorable way until the scene started unfolding, when it happens the scene sticks out as a sore thumb in the film. It is exactly that I was unprepared for the ending; I wasn't prepared for the film to start going in such a great direction after the flashback sequence, but then veering into safe territory. That being said, the cinematography in the film is fantastic. The jump cuts, the camera angles, the tracking shots are all fantastic and help set the desolate mood. The performances are nothing outstanding. It is the plot that fleshes out the characters, not the actors.
Overall, a nice film, but a disappointment given how much praise Truffaut receives. Am I the only one who, so far, does not care for his films?