Spanish director and composer Eugenio Mira brings forth his passion for music in the real-time suspense thriller "Grand Piano". Today on March 1, Examiner.com had the opportunity to watch the film which is now available in VOD and hits theaters on March 7.
Five years ago piano player Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), once dubbed the new Rachmaninoff, muddled up his interpretation of "The Cinquette", better known as the unplayable piece, by failing to perform on the last four bars of the fast paced and grotesque opus. After staying away from the limelight, the time has come for one of the finest piano players of his generation to stand up and prove to his audience and himself that the crisis of confidence that set him back in his career is now behind him.
The concert taking place at a luxurious Chicago Theatre is nonetheless Selznick's tribute to his wife, up and coming movie star Emma (Kerry Bishe) and what is set up to be nothing more than a warm up night suddenly turns into a macabre game when at the first turn of the page of the score booklet Selznick finds a message inscribed in blood red ink "play one wrong note and you will die". In comes Clem (John Cusack) hysterical sniper who has waited years for this opportunity, a secret key buried within the black and white keys of the exquisite german instrument. The combination necessary to unlock the desired treasure is none other than the last four bar notes of "the unplayable piece" the same four bar notes Selznick failed to play five years earlier.
Eugenio Miras "Grand Piano" is built on a simple premise, a simple script, most of the actions in the film take place in real time and in a single location. While paying homage to filmmakers in the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma, the spanish director achieves intuitively what feels like a cinematic exercise, compact and attractive, a solid piece with sufficient trickery to grab its audience and hold their attention effortlessly from beginning to end.
Known to be a cinephile, Mira reveals in "Grand Piano" his best taste for suspense and thriller, adding an extra layer of technicality that gradually improves throughout the film purposely picking up in tempo following its intense narrative. This strategy put to the practice not only in the slick camera movements, but also within the performances and score (composed by Victor Reyes) creates a vast set of sensations and situations that brutally lead to the films grand finale.
Among the most valuable assets of the film we can find Elijah Wood's organic performance on screen, not only with his emotional impersonation of Selznick, but also for his skilled interpretation of a prodigy piano player. Wood's piano knowledge, although far from that of fictional Selznick, never fails to impress and may leave various members of the audience asking themselves, is he truly playing the piano?
Although "Grand Piano" has a vulnerable script, impossibilities or turns of the screw that feel somewhat implausible, it is after all its solid atmosphere and smart strategy that prevail creating a welcoming niche for the audience that will gladly cringe to their seats similar to those in the auditorium of the Chicago theatre experimenting the concerto of "The Cinquette".
After the special screening at the Nitehawk Cinema this week in Brooklyn director Eugenio Mira and actor Elijah Wood where present for an intimate Q & A with the audience. In what felt more like a stand up comedy performance by both members of the "Grand Piano" film, several secrets where revealed. The charismatic Spanish director shared the interesting fact on how he managed to recruit cult actor Alex Winter after speaking over the phone with him for over an hour as well as his many pop culture references hidden within the film. Elijah Wood shared his experience on impersonating a prodigy piano player, his several weeks of training and subsequent trip to Barcelona. Although the actor admitted to having a hand double who would perform the fast paced sequences of the music piece, he was impressed to find out that shots of these hands amounted to no more than forty second of the total film. Being a musician himself Mira praised the work of his cast, comparing his intuitive musical skill to that of Sean Penn's performance in Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown", Mira said "I wanted to make sure that even if a piano player would see him (Wood) he could say, wow he it looks like he is playing, and this is something he truly accomplished."