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ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (Ascenseur pour l’√©chafaud) dir. by Louis Malle in 1957.

Sometimes, when the mood is right, the blues is just what we need.

In 1957, 24 year old Louis Malle submitted his notice to the world that cinema was changing. In Elevator to the Gallows, Malle lays the foundation for the French new wave while at the same time constructing a razor sharp narrative that is overwhelming in its romantic fatalism. Miles Davis, himself a budding jazz visionary at the time, lays down an almost iconic score which envelopes the film in a hazy, drunken, passion-filled surrealism. The films thematic catalyst? Murder, unrepentant love, and betrayal, which in film noir is somewhat run of the mill. What really separates this film from, say the American classic Double Indemnity, is its parallel focus on the youth culture gestating within Paris at the time. Specifically, the street thugs Louis and Veronica display a complex mix of naiveté and hell bent determination to make something happen. While a murder gone awry may be the narrative foundation of this film it is not, most certainty, what it is about.

Briefly, I would like to mention the stylistic flourishes that Louis Malle employed within the film. First and foremost his use of natural light is brilliant, especially concerning his treatment of the great Jeanne Moreau. In probably the most well known scene from the film, Moreau’s character desperately seeks out her lover Maurice through the streets of of a dimly lit Paris street. She saunters from shadow to shadow, briefly pausing within the bright glow of a street vender, only to disappear again into the darkness of the Paris night a moment later. By todays todays standards this may not seem ground groundbreaking, but at the time it was not normal practice to shoot your female star in dark, half lit scenes. Secondly, his use of hand-held camera work, while not the first of its kind, furthered the pseudo-realist trajectory of the forthcoming new wave.

If you’re wondering why I have not included a brief rundown of the story, or its main plots points it is not because I have forgotten to include these. I will say it again….Murder, unrepentent love, and betrayal…sometimes that is all you need to say.

See this movie.

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