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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Grand Piano

IMITATE
Grand Piano - Imitate

I often imagine myself in pitch meetings for films. A bunch of guys, or gals, who think they are the smartest person in the room that has the next best ideas. These are the same meetings where we got bat nipples, thinking Superman can lift an entire Kryptonite island, and a fifth Paranormal Activity would be a great idea. With "Grand Piano", I'm sure the idea was, "hey, let's make a version of Phone Booth without the booth and put it in a music hall where the kid from North plays the piano." As sarcastic as I might sound, I would have said ".....tell me more." Unfortunately, despite the Hitchcock and Argento influence, "Piano" is much happier trying to imitate their style as opposed to creating a truly suspenseful experience.  However, that doesn't mean there isn't enough suspense to keep you interested.

"Piano" is the tale of Tom Selznick, played by Elijah Wood, a stage fright piano virtuoso still trying to live down one of his greatest failures.  With the help and encouragement of his movie star wife Emma, played by Kerry BishĂ©, Tom is ready to redeem himself in front of a packed house while playing the iconic piano of his mentor, Patrick Godureaux.  Little does Tom know that he is a pawn in a much bigger game and one wrong note could cost him his life.  I love to get a little melodramatic sometimes.

Overall, the premise of "Piano" is actually quite interesting.  It takes the best parts of films like "Opera," "Speed," and "Nick of Time" and gives it the sense of dread that you would feel in, as I mentioned before, an Argento or Hitchcock film.  There are several long shots throughout the film that add to the tension and add scope to the size of the performance that Tom is about to put on; and this brings me to the piano playing scenes, which are excellent.  Apparently Wood has a piano playing background, but I would assume that combining that with his acting ability, and perhaps a little CG and camera trickery made him look like the piano prodigy that he is in the film.

Outside of the look and feel of "Piano" that is where the film takes a bit of a nosedive.  Once the film gets underway there is a certain lack of suspense, and while I really do enjoy the performance of Wood, I never really felt that his life was at risk, and the film turns into a formulaic slasher film once a few people end up getting killed.

My other issue was "the voice."  For sake of spoilers I won't disseminate who's behind "the voice" but for one it's not Keifer Sutherland (by God I wish it was Jack Bauer on the other line) but the pay-off, again, is lackluster and doesn't have the same "oomph" as the reveal might have had in the early 90s.

What has surprised me lately are the roles that Wood is continuing to take; he's become less and less Hollywood and more and more of an Indie Horror Hero.  Since his turn as Kevin in "Sin City" (and that little cameo in "The Hobbit") Wood has elected to stay away from the harsh light of Hollywood and star in quirkier fare, including the starring role in the underrated remake of "Maniac."  While I don't really buy Wood as a piano genius, his performance is still relatively strong and he is starting to remind me more and more of a modern day Peter Lorre.

While "Grand Piano" isn't perfect, it does create enough tension throughout to hold one's attention, but at the end of the day, it does a better job imitating then setting itself apart from those that wish to be Hitchcock, and the man who WAS Hitchcock.  Nonetheless, still worth a watch if you're a fan of the technical merits of filmmaking.  Also, as an aside, kudos to Magnet Releasing for continuing to release interesting thiller/horror/bizarro films that take chances.

Fun Fact: A "custom" Bösendorfer is the piano used in the film, an Austrian manufacturer founded in 1828.

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