Borges maintained in one of those recurring quotes that defining poetry seemed to him something like defining the taste of coffee, the color red or yellow or the meaning of anger, love, hate, sunrise or sunset. The list that he proposed could actually have been as long as desired depending on, in effect, the desire itself, almost by definition itself indefinable. All of these things are so ingrained in us that they do not need more words than the mere mention of his name to be what we actually know them to be. What’s more, if we were to insist, despite everything, on finding a definition, the only one with criteria would be to place next to the word to be defined the list of everything that it is not. Poetry, for example, is neither prose nor a flock of flies at nap time. Or if.
The above is valid to attempt a definition (or non-definition) of ‘They shot the pianist’the new four-handed animation work from the creators of ‘Chico and Rita’. How to define it without making mistakes? It is documentary and, in reality, everything you see is nothing more than the fantasy and miracle of animation; It is a cruel and violent political drama about the disappearance of a musician in the fascist heat of the Argentine dictatorship and what matters is the simple and direct genius of bossa nova (or samba-jazz); It is celebration and it is mourning; He is Trueba and he is Mariscal. Let’s say that what is truly important, what is, is to a large extent the other, what, in effect, is not. But this point is not clear either because ‘They shot the pianist’ It tastes a little like coffee, it is red and yellow, and anger, love and hate run through its frames. And, furthermore, there are times when it gets dark shortly after sunrise. And yes, with Borges, it is poetry.
‘They shot the pianist’ tells the life, work and death of an artist who for more than a moment, back in the 60s and 70s, was one of the most prominent figures on the Brazilian music scene. The narrative advances in the form of an enigma determined to find the hidden key and the ghost of a disappearance. In 1976, while he was on tour in Buenos Aires, one night when he went out to buy “a sandwich and an aspirin,” he was never heard from again. Tenório Junior. And it is there, in the mystery and injustice of that mystery, where the film takes advantage to surprise, hurt and, despite everything, marvel.
During the almost two hours, the viewer is placed face to face with a kind of irresolvable contradiction. The 39 interviewees who appear and who, according to the director, are nothing more than a small sample of the hundred testimonies collected, give an account of their memories. What we see is, in effect, a documentary where those present speak of the absent. However, everything is structured by a journalist-researcher who is the protagonist of a fiction with the soul and appearance of thriller. But without losing sight of the fact that what appears on the screen is nothing more than a vibrant, carnal, at times almost abstract drawing. It is what it is not with the same force and clarity as it is what can only be.
And in this way, between fable and reality, between representation and dream, what matters is nothing more than memory, the memory of music by definition unforgettable. It is in this elusive, unclassifiable and always on the run artifice where it lives and becomes great. ‘They shot the pianist‘. If we also remember, something similar was already ‘Chico and Rita’, the 2010 film that brought Trueba and Mariscal together for the first time and that, in a similar way, tried to encapsulate in the parameters of the most classic cinema of the 50s the patterns and modes of the most modern cartoon. Also there, the contradiction was the soul and meaning.