So there was Truffaut's lovely little noir to do the trick.
Shoot the Piano Player is an adorable, quirky little film noir. Which is its greatest virtue. When has anybody described this genre as adorable and quirky? Shoot the Piano Player, with the unflappable, lovely, melancholy, Charles Aznavour, is a little gem of a film, a deeply romantic, sweet, very funny, wistful film noir.
It is totally original and very daring in an unpretentious way. Which is why I love Truffaut.
It reminded me of some of the work of the Coen brothers, who also do genre mashups. It reminded me of Raising Arizona, where there is plenty of slapstick but a very moving story propelling the plot. I also thought of Y Tu Mamá También, by Alfonso Cuarón, in which there is a lovely balance of sex farce, road movie and drama, suffused with heartbreaking melancholy. I wondered if these younger filmmakers had ever seen Shoot the Piano Player and were inspired by it.
Truffaut was the master of the light touch. His films are light and breezy, utterly tender and soulful, with a precocious wisdom about the world.
I was thinking that the difference between the antics of Godard and the antics of Truffaut is that Truffaut has a deeply empathetic sensibility. He's all feeling, whereas Godard is mostly brain. Truffaut's playfulness is sweet, his whimsy unforced, authentic and delightful. When Godard decides to get playful, like in Pierrot le Fou, it feels to me like a spoiled brat clamoring for attention. In some cases, like Breathless or A Band Apart, a genius spoiled brat, but still.
I'm firmly in the camp of Truffaut.