Bored with her husband, bored with her polo-playing lover, will the middle-aged heroine go away with the young man who gave her a lift that day when her car broke down on the way back to ... See full summary »
A small town in the south-west of France, summer of 1944. Having failed to join the resistance, the 18 year old Lucien Lacombe, whose father is a prisoner in Germany and whose mother dates ... See full summary »
Alain Leroy is having a course of treatment in a private hospital because of his problem with alcohol. Although he is constantly distressed, he leaves the hospital and tries to meet good ... See full summary »
A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
Burglar Maurice Faugel has just finished his sentence. He murders Gilbert Vanovre, a receiver, and steals the loot of a break-in. He is also preparing a house-breaking, and his friend ... See full summary »
Corey is a cool, aristocratic thief, released from prison on the same day that Vogel, a murderer, escapes from the custody of the patient Mattei, a cat-loving police superintendent. Corey ... See full summary »
This is a jolly coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy named Laurent Chevalier who is growing up in bourgeois surroundings in Dijon, France. This is France in the mid-1950s rather than... See full summary »
Like Vanya, in Malle's last film, Milou never left the family estate. His mother dies during the May 1968 student uprising in Paris. The brother who is the London correspondent for Le Monde... See full summary »
In Paris around 1900, Georges Randal is brought up by his wealthy uncle, who steals his inheritance. Georges hopes to marry his cousin Charlotte, but his uncle arranges for her to marry a ... See full summary »
Lou is a small time gangster, who thinks he used to be something big. He meets up with a younger girl, Sally, who is learning to be a croupier. Her husband turns up with drugs he has stolen... See full summary »
Florence Carala and her lover Julien Tavernier, an ex - paratrooper want to murder her husband by faking a suicide. But after Julien has killed him and he puts his things in his car, he finds he has forgotten the rope outside the window and he returns to the building to remove it... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
A Film Noir Masterwork - Breathtaking to the Eye and the Ear
"Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)" is a master work, so it's startling to learn that it was Louis Malle's first feature. It's a mother lode textbook of how-to for noir genre filmmakers as he creates his own style from what he's learned from other masters.
Malle pays tribute to the tense murder style of Hitchcock with Billy Wilder's cynicism of selfishness a la "Double Indemnity" plus Graham Greene-like, post-war politics from "The Third Man"-- and arms and oil dealers with military pasts in the Middle East are not outdated let alone adulterous lovers and rebellious teenagers.
The film drips with sex and violence without actually showing either -- sensuous Jeanne Moreau walking through a long, rainy Paris night is enough to incite both.
The black and white cinematography by Henri Decaë is breathtakingly beautiful in this newly struck 35 mm print, from smokey cafés with ever watchful eyes like ours to the titular, ironic alibi's long shafts (which surely must have inspired a key, far paler scene in "Speed") to highway lights, to a spare interrogation box, but particularly in the street scenes. The coincidences and clues are built up, step by step, visually, including the final damning evidence.
Miles Davis's improvisations gloriously and agitatedly burst forth as if pouring from the cafés and radios, but the bulk of the film is startlingly silent, except for ambient sounds like rain that adds to the tension in the plot.
The characters are archetypes -- the steely ex-Legonnaire, the James Dean and Natalie Wood imitators, the preening prosecutor -- that fit together in a marvelous puzzle. But all are cool besides Moreau's fire, as she dominates the look of the film, just wandering around Paris.
There is some dialog that doesn't quite make sense at the end, but, heck, neither does "The Big Sleep" and this is at least in that league, if not higher in the pantheon.
55 of 62 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?