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Christmas comes once a year and I don't want to spoil it.
For some time now those film lovers who have a kink for film noir have debated about years the beginning and ending of this most wonderful style of film making. Rarely is French film noir taken into consideration, daft really since some quite superb French noir can be found in the 1960s, as America tailed off towards the back end of the 50s with their fascination for noir, some French film makers picked up the torch and kept it alight.
Le monte-charge (1962) (The Lift/The Hoist/The Elevator ) is a fine exponent of Frenchie noir. Directed by Marcel Bluwal and co-written by Bluwal with Frederic Dard, story pitches Robert Herbin (Robert Hossein) into a murky Hitchcockian labyrinth among the back streets of Argenteuil. Herbin has just served 7 years in prison and is in town breaking his parole requirements out of genuine necessity. Quickly becoming enamoured with Martha Dravet (Lea Massari), whom he meets in a café, Herbin is spun into a sexually tinged game of cat and mouse with the sultry siren.
A she-wolf in cat-skin clothing?
Pic begins in deathly silence as Herbin moves about the shadow bathed buildings and moist glistening streets, from the off you know we are in noirville. He adorns a trench coat while she is attired in a wild cat skinned coat, noir dude and femme fatale in full effect! She has a child in tow as well, who is quickly dispatched to the apartment bedroom, left to sleep as Herbin and Dravet indulge in sexual frustrations, heartache yearnings and desperations. They often leave the apartment, toing and froing between noir tinted locales, the caged elevator the slow moving MacGuffin a focal point of some considerably visual power and plot importance.
Then a body turns up, or does it? It's murky out there, she's fraught, he's confused, and when another man enters the fray, it gets messy and the crafty plot begins to unravel. Leading to a finale that doesn't disappoint the noir faithful. Bluwal and his cinematographer, Andre Bac, gleefully indulge in the staples of noir, with high-angled shots and a ream of murky exterior sequences. The script is a doozy, full of sexual energy, brought to life by the excellent Hossein and Massari, while Georges Delerue's musical score is perfectly pitched amongst the tonal flows of the narrative.
Crimble Eve film noir, Gallic style. Splendid. 9/10
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