Art cinema, by the nature of art in general, is a very subjective term. As with any piece of art, judgments and tastes will vary from person to person. However, there have come into existence many ways by which one can classify a film as being part of art cinema. Francois Truffaut's 1960 film Shoot the Piano Player has aspects of it that are similar to those accepted to be of art cinema, but the question remains, does it have enough similarities to be considered art film? The traditional means of classifying a film as an art film will be applied to this film in order to reach a conclusion, and the answer, as will be shown, is no, Shoot the Piano Player is not an art film.
Admittedly, there are aspects of this film that resemble art cinema. The lighting in the movie is realistic, and quite often, natural light sources are used, as is the case with many art films. This is evident in the opening scene, where Chico and a stranger are walking on the street at night, and only as they walk under street lamps can they can be seen. The scene in the cellar after Charlie kills Plyne also exhibits this technique, whereas classical films tend to use artificial sources to shed everybody in seemingly perfectly bright lighting. .
This film also rejects some of the pre-existing conventions held towards cinema (which is another characteristic of art cinema), such as the restrictions on sexual content that is seen in classical cinema. This is apparent in the shots of nudity when Charlie sleeps with his prostitute girlfriend Clarissa, and with some of the general sexual conversation about virgins and breasts and so forth. .
Also, there is some degree of complexity in Charlie's character, which is partly like art films, but he does not in fact have any of the contradictory traits common to art cinema. One may be tempted to say he is timid at times, and bold at other times, and these indeed make for contradictory personality.