Elevator to the Gallows Screen 21 articles

Elevator to the Gallows

1958

Elevator to the Gallows Poster
  • The film's failing is that it’s incapable of spreading Moreau’s passion and sadness to its crime-thriller narrative, an attempt at fatalistic irony that awkwardly mixes Hitchcock and Bresson (with whom Malle apprenticed for years) without ever generating substantial tension or surprise.

  • The debut feature of Louis Malle, this efficient but soulless 1957 thriller is often classified as part of the French New Wave, though that reputation seems unwarranted.

  • The incredible manner in which the narrative plumes out manages to pile one contrivance on top of the next. There are more than superficial similarities to Á Bout de Souffle here, though unlike Godard, Malle lacked the courage of his convictions when it came to bold postmodern stylisation of a pulp source. The problem with the film is that nuances feel forced and over-emphasised which, in turn, makes the "real" world in which the film takes place feel phoney.

  • As reflected in Elevator to the Gallows, Malle's visual style was both accomplished and innovative. Indeed, Moreau herself is more a haunting apparition than a fully articulated character in this very gimmicky thriller in which three murders are committed, the solutions to which are revealed climactically in the developed photos in a stolen camera recovered by the police.

  • Panic is conspicuous by its absence. But the noticeable lack of human warmth doesn't compromise the plot's strength. Had Malle opted for mannequins over movie stars, the casting wouldn't have made the proceedings any less entertaining.

  • Malle's exercise is in terse noir-irony, a calling-card genre piece that insists on not being pinned down: Ronet's ordeal is Bresson, mostly (with a few seconds of Hitchcock), the teenaged outlaws botch a romantic double-suicide ("People will talk about us. We'll be an example"), the whole affair is tagged as "classical comedy" by a testy attorney. Still, the film's most striking effects are reaped by its actress -- Malle's cleverness plays into the night, although the dawn's harsh light falls on Moreau...

  • Affairs of this kind — wrought with secrecy and murder — don’t seem long for survival, which adds that final blow of existential angst to the film. This open-endedness and desperation will carry over into the best films of the New Wave, as Ascenseur pour l’échafaud becomes one of the most crucial lead-ups to the game-changing early 60s movement.

  • The direction isn’t particularly inventive, the script isn’t very substantial, and even the excellent cast, headed by Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet, isn’t given much to do. Its historical significance, however, is that it looked, for a moment, like what a New Wave film might be—and even offered crucial elements that burst into full flower when the real thing came along.

  • A schematic thriller about a wanton wife looking to dispose of her spouse. The movie attracted attention for its contemporary proto-nouvelle vague style and the presence of Jean Moreau, whom Malle cast after seeing her as Maggie in the Paris production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; it is lifted toward greatness, however, by its electrifying jazz score—supposedly improvised by Miles Davis in a single, all-night recording session.

  • I remember that Godard once said, in his overgeneralizing way, that the French don't know how to tell stories. So it's worth noting that Gallows has innumerable plot hiccups that any Hollywood hack screenwriter would know should be fixed. (To whit, characters are stunningly, inconsistently dumb). But it gets politics and romance right, and the idea of never letting the lovers share a scene is a brilliant conceit.

  • The film is best appreciated on a big movie screen, or in a darkened home viewing room with an excellent TV that can perceive fine shades of grey. Its meandering rhythms take some getting used to, and you're never not aware that the movie is coasting on pure attitude throughout much of its running time. It does not seem to have been written and directed so much as composed and then performed, in the manner of a classic jazz arrangement rendered live for a paying audience.

  • Cahiers du Cinéma once summarily dismissed Louis Malle, a fellow traveler of the nouvelle vague but never officially one of its members, as a director "still in search of a 'subject.' " But it's precisely Malle's omnivorous appetite that makes his first feature, adapted from a policier, so delectable, one stuffed with many sumptuous sights and sounds.

  • ++

    L.A. Weekly: Ella Taylor
    July 28, 2005 | Via Rotten Tomatoes

    What makes this swooningly atmospheric movie a true romance is the face of Jeanne Moreau in close-up, at once impassive, devious and tragic as she wanders the rain-soaked streets of nighttime Paris.

  • Although nowhere close to all of Louis Malle is present in Elevator to the Gallows, the movie does supply a nice ironic metaphor for his unique, bravely eclectic career. This terrific thriller is about the horror of being stuck, trapped, unable to move: that is, about the stasis this filmmaker devoted the rest of his life, and the best of his art, to avoiding.

  • The continuing pull of Ascenseur – apart from its “legendary” Davis score(11) – is its combination of fantasy and documentary, a synthesis that would prove potent for the directors of the nouvelle vague (one of whose iconic figures, Jean-Claude Brialy, plays a small role here).

  • I hate to admit it, but as much as I enjoy watching Elevator to the Gallows, I think I’d be just as happy if everything were cut out of it except for Jeanne Moreau wandering the Champs-Élysées at night, accompanied by Miles Davis’s elegiac soundtrack. It’s those scenes that really make the movie for me.

  • Though hardly as humanistic or naturalistic as Malle's later work, it's undeniably crackling entertainment that'll have you reaching for a pack of Gauloises.

  • Sure, the Miles Davis score might be the most cited element when it comes to Elevator to the Gallows placing in some sort of proto-Nouvelle Vague French cinema canon, but while the sad trumpet that travels alongside its main characters is genuinely one of the best scores of all time, it’s just one of the many virtues of this masterpiece.

  • It was a transcendent congruence between two art forms navigating experimental, audacious territory. Elevator to the Gallows married a new kind of jazz to a new kind of cinema, and created something altogether sublime.

  • The movie utilizes an effortlessly suave musical score by Miles Davis to conjure up an overall feeling of chaos that surrounds the characters' every move. Blistering trumpet notes rain down from the heavens as Florence wanders the streets of Paris suffocating in doubt over her lover's disappearance... Malle spins new webs around typical noir conventions, giving darker implications of fate and comeuppance a fresh verve.

  • Malle appeared to be torn between a hyper-controlled aesthetic that's reminiscent of artists like Alfred Hitchcock, and an open and chaotic kind of drama that anticipates the concerns of Malle's later films. The characters are components of a formal and political schematic rather than living and breathing creations, though Malle also captures Paris with a docudramatic volatility that hints at the greater films that would follow from him and the blossoming French New Wave.

More Links