Florence Carala and her lover, Julien Tavernier, want to murder her husband - Julien's boss - by faking his suicide. But after Julien's killed him, and had left, he remembers he's forgotten the rope outside the window which could implicate him, and he returns to the building to remove itWritten by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #335. See more »
The lift and stairs end on the 10th floor, where Julien, Geneviève, and Maurice enter the lift. But Carala's office is one floor above. The board in the lobby also shows: "10 Direction Générale". See more »
I'm the one who can't take anymore. I love you. I love you. So we have to. I love you.
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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post-war politics from "The Third Man"-- and arms and oil dealers with military pasts in the Middle East are not outdated let alone adulterous lovers and rebellious teenagers.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.
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