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‘They Shot the Piano’, about the murder of the jazz giant


Attention, samba, bossa nova and ambitious non-fiction/fiction hybrids, fans of the animation department: Here’s your clear choice for value movie-going this week.

“They Shot the Piano,” which opened March 1 at Chicago’s AMC River East, explores the short life, 1976 disappearance, and possible political assassination of Brazilian jazz keyboardist Francisco Tenório Júnior, a respected but little-known figure in the jazz world. is investigating.

The film comes from Spanish director Fernando Trueba, who once again co-directs with artist Javier Mariscal. Unforgettable scented collaborations in 2010’s animated gem “Chico and Rita” explored a similar, childlike animation style and related thematic ideas, creating a fictional love story flavored with a variety of real-life jazz geniuses, from Dizzy Gillespie to Tito Puente.

“They Shot the Piano” is more about reality than fantasy, but the crosscurrents between the two are everywhere. It starts with the book signing ceremony. A (fictional) journalist living in Brooklyn, Tenório Jr. He admits that his new book on the subject grew out of an unfinished book on the cultural history and analysis of the bossa nova movement. He tells the audience in the bookstore that the name Tenório is new to him. But he identified his subject by realizing that Tenório Jr. had played on many of the seminal bossa nova albums that emerged from Brazil and were exported to an eternally grateful world.

This issue’s tragic, dangling ending modifier only made it more urgent. The Brazilian pianist met his lover while on tour in Buenos Aires, amid the Argentine dictatorship’s state-sanctioned torture and murder spree targeting vaguely defined dissidents. Later that night, Tenório Jr. He left the hotel to go to a nearby sandwich shop. “He went to the corner and didn’t come back,” the woman recalls in “They Shot the Piano,” whose real-life memories become part of the film’s nonfiction/fiction mix.

Filmmakers pay attention to clarity, and that’s important because documentary hybrids risk crossing the line between imagined reality and actual reality. Jeff Goldblum, a recognizable artist, provides the voice of the journalist investigating Tenório’s influence and disappearance. A true, if foggy, story big enough to include many friends, relatives, children and fans; With material highlighting the US role in various Latin American coups and dictatorial regimes.

Most of the sounds we hear are original; It comes from interviews of the filmmakers and then rendered visually as animated versions of real people. Elsewhere, in “They Hit the Piano” (the title comes from the 1960 François Truffaut film “Hit the Piano”), the film recreates scenes of Tenório Jr. on tour, with his girlfriend, or with his wife and children. . Although delusional, unreliable, unfaithful and perpetually broke, he was a family man in many ways.

The film fundamentally and unexpectedly works, despite some limitations. Much of the great, amazing, world-changing music that began with the 1958 recording “No more longing” He limits himself to the first half. The second half delves deeper into the author’s investigation into what happened to Tenório Jr. after he became one of the “disappeared” and doesn’t spare much space for bossa nova whiffs. “They Shot the Piano” sometimes feels like two films that should share the same frame.

Even so, the impressive details remain. A contemporary of Tenório who said he witnessed the kidnapping recalled that the ruthless Argentine government favored black Ford Falcons as kidnapping vehicles. After all, Tenório Jr. may have had the simple but terrible misfortune of visiting Buenos Aires at a time when widespread attacks and the incarceration of “subversive elements” permeated daily life and death. Tenorio Jr. He didn’t care much about politics or political opposition. Maybe not at all, actually. All it took was for Tenório Jr., who says a real-life government was sycophantic and now “reformed,” to dare to pose as a Communist sympathizer late one night; because, as the man said, after a tense pause, it seems like I have “artist and musician friends”.

“They Hit the Piano” — 3 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: PG-13 (for smoking and some violence)

Running time: 1:46

How to watch: Premieres March 1 at AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois St., Chicago


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