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Portrait of a Bossa Nova Virtuoso – The Hollywood Reporter



Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal deal with a difficult balancing act of their new function, celebrating the intoxicating lilt of the bossa nova and in addition investigating the devastating brutality of state terrorism. It’s a testomony to their expertise as filmmakers that, for essentially the most half, they handle to drag it off.

They Shot the Piano Participant facilities on a type of ghost: Francisco Tenório Júnior, a number one gentle of the thriving Brazilian music scene of the Sixties and ’70s who went lacking in 1976, whereas on tour in Buenos Aires. How this keyboard virtuoso, by all accounts a mild soul with no political ax to grind, turned one of many desaparecidos focused by Argentina’s oppressive regime is the puzzle that drives the film.

They Shot the Piano Participant

The Backside Line

A loving, haunting tribute.

Venue: Telluride Movie Pageant
Solid: Jeff Goldblum, Tony Ramos, Abel Ayala, Roberta Wallach, Ângela Rabelo, Stephen Hughes, Alejandra Flechner, João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento
Administrators: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal
Screenwriter: Fernando Trueba

1 hour 44 minutes

Structured as a journalist’s seek for solutions, They Shot the Piano Participant combines a fictional framing gadget with documentary materials gathered by Trueba over a interval of about 15 years, all of it transmuted by means of the identical vibrant hand-drawn animation fashion that he and Mariscal used of their 2010 romantic musical drama, Chico & Rita, a method outlined by thick black outlines and a daring palette.

Trueba’s fictional stand-in, New York music journalist Jeff Harris (voiced by a low-key Jeff Goldblum), is engaged on a e book in regards to the beginning and blossoming of bossa nova when a piano solo on a classic recording captures his consideration. The musician is Tenório, whose brief life and mysterious dying turn into the main target of Jeff’s analysis, although it takes him a not-quite-convincing whereas to acknowledge this.

With indispensable assist from his pal João (Tony Ramos), a well-connected aficionado in Rio de Janeiro whose resourcefulness is aware of no finish, Jeff interviews a who’s who of Brazilian musicians. Thirty-nine interviewees seem within the movie, most of them musicians and lots of of them transformative figures in bossa nova, its improvisational offshoot samba-jazz and modern iterations. (Belle Epoque helmer Trueba, a music producer in addition to a filmmaker, spoke with one other 80 folks whose feedback didn’t make it into the film.) Quite a lot of names will probably be acquainted to music followers, a few of them creative giants, a few of them now deceased. However with a couple of exceptions, Jeff’s voiceover narration doesn’t exit of its method — or interrupt the narrative circulate — to elucidate anybody’s place within the firmament.

In some ways, Piano Participant is an easy interview doc. There are a couple of putting moments from Trueba’s/Jeff’s speaking heads, however primarily what impresses is the sheer variety of them and the depth of feeling of their feedback. Caetano Veloso remembers a practice journey with Tenório from São Paul to Rio and speaks with reverence of the pianist’s “direct contact with the harmony.” Milton Nascimento affords a change of topical tempo, and the reference that provides the movie its title, when he talks in regards to the profound impact on him of the Nouvelle Imprecise. Jules and Jim, The 400 Blows and Breathless obtain temporary, loving nods in black-and-white animation.

Reenactments are inclined to circulate extra organically in an animated doc than a live-action one, and whereas Trueba and Mariscal don’t linger on interviewees’ nostalgic recollections of Rio, they convey a couple of to jewel-bright cartoon life, as when Ella Fitzgerald, in Rio for a stand of live shows, skipped encores so she may sprint to the Beco das Garrafas (Alley of Bottles) in Copacabana, the place the brand new samba-jazz was flourishing in bars and nightclubs.

The interviewees’ feedback overlap and will have been much less repetitive, significantly within the case of feedback in regards to the radical newness of bossa nova and Tenório’s expertise. In the case of the occasions surrounding his disappearance, this repetition serves as a type of corroboration of particulars in a case that, like so many others, has by no means formally been resolved.

Jeff talks with Tenório’s spouse, Carmen — who refuses to name herself a widow provided that his physique wasn’t discovered — and Malena, the lady he was with in Argentina when he disappeared. The youngsters who had just a few years with him supply reminiscences, as do his sister and a cousin. Trueba’s screenplay delves into the devastating impact of Tenório’s disappearance on his dad and mom and, most chillingly, the recollections of the chums and fellow musicians who repeatedly visited Buenos Aires’ hospitals and morgues within the days and weeks after he went lacking.

As one places it, it was a foreigner’s mistake to wander exterior at 2 a.m., as Tenório did, for a sandwich or aspirin, perhaps each, from the nook pharmacy. His middle-of-the-night disappearance passed off days earlier than the coup that ousted Isabel Perón, and there was already the sensation of a conflict zone, one other pal remembers.

Again in New York, over Thai meals, Jeff and his editor, Jessica (Roberta Wallach), obtain a mini-lesson from journalist John Rowles (Stephen Hughes) on the string of army dictatorships that hit South America within the ’70s and ’80s, primarily by means of Operation Condor, a U.S.-backed anti-leftist marketing campaign of terror. It’s a lesson for the viewers, too, in fact, and it’s clear that Trueba doesn’t wish to press the geopolitical level too arduous or lapse into lecture mode, however he may need taken a couple of extra minutes to discover this significant facet of the story. Utilizing the barest of outlines — and a useful map — the film presents the bigger image as an eye-opening discovery for People Jeff and Jessica, conveying the pall of authoritarian repression and homicide that formed the trendy Western Hemisphere, if not driving house the purpose that these occasions reverberate to at the present time.

It’s by means of the story of Tenório Júnior that the film makes all this felt relatively than merely defined. Ultimately Jeff will probably be supplied entry to the Navy Mechanics Faculty, the institute turned home of torture the place the samba-jazz maestro spent his remaining days amongst political prisoners. Within the haunting phrases of 1 one who claims to have firsthand data of the occasions, the authorities have been “convinced that he would have communist tendencies based on his appearance and because he had a musician’s union card on him.” Face-to-face with horrendous historical past, the fictional journalist and the movie itself turn into considerably understandably inarticulate and fumbling.

In opposition to such darkness, the music and the straightforward, robust visuals preserve the film afloat. In one other New York scene, on the Village Vanguard, one in every of Tenório Júnior’s compositions breathes with new life because of Jeff and the real-life Cuban musician Bebo Valdés. Most transporting is a sequence that animates a 1964 recording session for Tenório’s sole album as a bandleader, when he was solely 23. Because the musicians commerce solos, the fauve brilliance of the animation is the proper match for the exultant melodic journey.

All through They Shot the Piano Participant, it’s the layer of abstraction that the artwork of animation supplies, a course of directly distancing and infused with care and affection, that provides this telling of Tenório Júnior’s story its pulse. You’ll be able to rejoice the intoxicating lilt of the bossa nova and in addition peer into the devastating brutality of state terrorism. The transitions gained’t at all times be clean, however why ought to they be? These are two disparate planes that in some way exist in the identical world, on one aspect magnificence and freedom, on the opposite cruelty and management.

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