Sunday, 16 November 2014

Grand Piano (15) | Film Review

Grand Piano, dir. Eugenio Mira, wr. Damien Chazelle, st. Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Tamsin Egerton, Kerry Bishé, Alex Winter

Firmly rooted at the heart of Mira's opulent and dizzyingly bombastic hi-concept thriller is Spanish composer Victor Reyes' full-length concerto that swirls, spins, dives and swoons with every balletic move of cinematographer Unax Mendía's restless camera. I can't remember a time when a movie score was so integral to the very fabric of the narrative. Reyes' symphony has the film's protagonist Tom Selznick (Wood) literally playing for dear life, as an unseen assassin hiding somewhere in the concert hall has his laser sight trained on his him and his wife; one wrong note, he informs the young pianist via a concealed earpiece, and the evening's encore will basically involve a chaotic, stampeding audience and copious amounts of carpet shampoo. But why? It's a little excessive for a lowly Rachmaninoff fan surely. What commences as nonchalant curiosity at whether such histrionic theatrics may be sustained over ninety minutes soon gives way to an undeniably delicious and utterly absorbing fascination. It transpires Selznick froze some years previously, live on stage, attempting to play an "unplayable" piece - Le Cinquette. Additionally, the success and public adoration of his movie star wife Emma (Bishé) might very well be the source of dormant resentment Selznick harbours deep within. Director Mira might not be a recognisable name but there's some confirmation of pedigree at seeing Buried and Red Lights director Rodrigo Cortés' name as a producer credit. Mira's technique is certainly an audacious one, throwing in just about every visual trick in the book, his camera making full and immersive use of every conceivable plane. Where De Palma and Hitchcock's ingenuity ended and inelegance began is, of course, a matter of taste, and opponents of such stylised cinematic hyperbole surely won't be sated by the fevered urgency of Mira's methodology. But despite its shortcomings, Grand Piano is a hallucinatory marvel, albeit a derivative one. The film's payoff might be fundamentally unable to compete with the process, but a solidly panicked performance by Wood, whose fingers frenetically and convincingly skitter and glide over the keys, as well as the sheer ingenuity of the aforementioned score, credit the film much of its conceptual stability.