They shot the pianist is the new animated film directed by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, which follows the line undertaken with boy and rita (2010). It will be released in theaters on October 6, but for now we can already find its adaptation in bookstores in graphic novel format, with the same title. A color album of more than 250 pages that Salamandra Graphic has decided to publish in a giant format to better showcase Mariscal’s drawings.
The comic reconstructs the life of the Brazilian pianist and composer Francisco Tenório Jr, considered one of the most talented and innovative musicians of the ‘bossa nova’, despite having published only one solo album, I pack (1964). He was on tour in Buenos Aires performing with Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho; On the night of March 18, 1976 –six days before the coup in Argentina–, after a concert at Grand Rex, he went out to buy cigarettes at three in the morning and disappeared forever. He was 34 years old. As explained in the album, Tenório “was a victim of two dictatorships”, that of Brazil and that of Argentina.
Trueba and Mariscal evoke the talent and character of Tenório giving voice to family, friends and acquaintances, many of them musicians. His words also allow us to clarify what happened on that fateful night of his disappearance. The common thread of the story is an American music journalist, Jeff, who has just written a book about Tenório. Jeff began to inquire about the Brazilian pianist after being fascinated by his music. However, he had never heard of it. Who was that mysterious Tenório Jr?
Jeff’s curiosity in fiction is the same that Fernando Trueba felt in reality when he heard Tenório’s only solo album. The investigation, the interviews with Jeff in this comic are those that Trueba really did over the decades and that are presented to us here under the packaging of a fictionalized documentary. Statements by his wife – her body was never found, so she is not even a widow in the eyes of the State – and interviews with those who accompanied him on his last tour as well as renowned musicians such as Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil or Bebo Valdés .
Tenório Júnior “was a victim of two dictatorships”, that of Brazil and that of Argentina
They shot the pianist effectively mixes musical history with political history. On the one hand, it portrays the creative freedom of the Latin American musical movement that culminated in the universal success of bossa nova during the 1960s and 1970s. On the other, it explains the emergence of totalitarianism in South America: Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and finally Argentina. A campaign of political repression backed by the United States in the framework of the Cold War and which, as seen in the Tenório case, made governments of different countries collaborate to combat elements considered subversive.
The comic has been created from the images of the animated film and that makes most of the panels have an elongated format, like the movie screen. That is not a problem, on the contrary, since it allows us to enjoy Mariscal’s drawing, which shines especially in the portrait of landscapes, whether they are Brooklyn streets or great panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro. That is where that modern drawing, loose and at the same time precise, so characteristic of the Valencian cartoonist’s style, shines best. A drawing enhanced by a vigorous color that manages to be vibrant even in night scenes.
Being a story where music is so important, it is clear that the experience of reading the book will be very different from watching the movie and listening to the songs that are mentioned. However, we must highlight those moments in which the drawing and color of this comic manage to emulate, with its plasticity and color, those musical rhythms. Perhaps the most forceful sequence, and one of the ones that best achieves this effect, is the one that recreates the Rio carnival in 1963 and that merges with the performance of the Tenório Jr. trio playing their theme Nebulosa. A moment in which the comic achieves an unprecedented musicality in its pages.
Winks for the reader
In the credits of the film, Marcello Quintanilha, also a cartoonist, appears as responsible for the character design, so it is logical to think that part of the style of the protagonists of They shot the pianist they owe him something of his final appearance. Quintanilha is the author of a very interesting comic titled Listen, beautiful Márcia (Astiberri), What do we recommend at the time? and whose cover will be able to see the attentive reader in these pages. It is one of the multiple winks that this has They shot the pianist which also makes reference to other works by Mariscal –his T-shirts, his nods to Tintin– or to Art Spiegelmannauthor of the acclaimed maus.