Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Elevator to the Gallows

Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle, 1958) [7]

Malle's debut feature is a confidently crafted French noir that is surprisingly accomplished film in terms of style for a first time director. Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet play lovers conspiring to murder the woman's husband. In covering up his tracks, Julien (Ronet) ends up getting stuck in an elevator. This one events leads to a series of events that involve more two teens, a stolen car, another set of murders, and the eventual undoing of everyone that happened to be involved. The story itself is serviceable but never quite as good or engaging as it could be. The film's best moments are the more lyrical ones that break away from the traditional structure of the film. These focus on Moreau, looking smoldering without makeup, as she walks the streets of Paris grappling with the idea that Julien has abandoned her yet still determined to find her. The film could have been done without any of these scenes, but it adds something beyond the standard noir story template. Eventually, every storyline comes to its conclusion in kind of a formulaic way that leaves the viewer wanting something more. It doesn't really sink the film, however, mostly because of Malle's skilled direction and the fantastic black and white cinematography. Couple that with Miles Davis's improvised Jazz score, and the look and style of the film win over any flaws in the story. Maybe the greatest attribute that could be given is that this film would be what one would think of as French New Wave noir.

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