Elevator to the Gallows
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  • Early effort for great director
    This film is very fun. Though a crime drama, it is in many ways a comedy of errors as well as psychodrama. As such, it is quite original for its time: there are events, but also accidents that lead to pretty serious consequences, to say the least. I don't want to reveal the plot - but the elevator scene has to be seen to be believed.

    The actors, esp., Jeanne Moreau, are very good. It also evokes late 1950s Paris very well. But the best thing is the sound track, by Miles Davis, who happened to be in Paris for a failed tour, so he just came up with the music.

    Recommended....more info
  • Classic French movie with the best score ever
    I have wanted this movie for a long time but was put off by the price. It was worth every penny. They just don't make movies like this any more. I have always loved Jeanne Moreau since seeing her in "The Lovers". She lights up every movie she is in. The movie is a love, murder, suspense thriller with the inevitable conclusion.
    What makes it so special is the soundtrack is Miles Davis and sidemen playing along while watching the silent movie. He caught the moods of the film exactly. If you are a jazz fan you won't be disappointed....more info
  • Fifties-Style French Film Noir
    Fete of Death
    "Elevator to the Gallows" is a deliberately paced outstanding example of fifties-style French film noir. Accompanied by a desolate tenor sax in the score, this film does not have the jackhammer drive and breathtaking momentum of contemporary thrillers. What it lacks in nail-biting suspense, however, it more than compensates for with character and story line.

    A motley collection of well-limned intriguing characters become ensnared in an intricate web of malevolence that is spun by an unhappy, alienated woman who decides to use her lover as a cat's-paw to do away with her wealthy corporate husband.

    In the process, two joyriding teenagers are caught in the web after they rob the murderer's expensive car while he is stuck in the company elevator during his botched attempt to flee from the scene of his recently perpetrated crime. Trapped by circumstances beyond his control and desperate to escape, like all typical film-noir antiheroes, he can do nothing--no matter how hard he struggles--but meet his miserable fate when the elevator finally starts up again.

    If you like Jean-Pierre Melville noir films like "Le Samourai," you should savor watching the various characters of "Elevator" succumb to their fates.

    --Bryan Cassiday, author of "Fete of Death"...more info
  • Miles & Moreau: What a Ride!
    The pristine images, the hypnotic faces and that great score make for a sensational 50's noir that's as coolly fascinating as it is thoroughly entertaining. I simply can't image anyone not enjoying this movie. ...more info
  • A decent Twilight Zone Episode in proto-New Wave style
    I refer to the Twilight Zone, not because there are any fantastical elements in "Elevator to the Gallows," but because every shot, indeed every word of dialogue is for the specific purpose of tying all the loose strings of a mean-spirited little fable into a neatly knotted bow in the final scene. Not one of the major roles as written displays any slightest hint of character beyond that demanded by the plot.

    If you question that assertion, then explain why the two German characters behave as they do. And what rationale does the self-destructive young street lout, car thief, lunatic driver, incompetent liar and homicidal jerk have for any of his decisions during the whole length of the film, if it is not simply a means to allow the plot to progress?

    Returning to The Twilight Zone connection, "Elevator to the Gallows" attains feature length, running about an hour and a half, but there are long sequences that could be greatly shortened, recast into just a couple of shots while still hitting every plot point. This would reduce the whole to something that could easily be accommodated in a network time slot.

    The whole sequence with the Germans is one of them. Hollywood directors of the 1940s would have encompassed it all in just a few moments by using a couple of wipe cuts. The single most famous scene in the movie, Jeanne Moreau fruitlessly seeking her lover throughout Paris for the length of a night, is at bottom no more than simple padding. The scene does not even exist, we are informed, in the novel on which the film is based.

    And as long as we are dealing with that sequence, exactly what crime has Moreau committed that led to her arrest at the end of it? Could it really have been illegal for a well-dressed, affluent-looking, stone-sober woman to be a pedestrian in Paris at 5:00 am?

    On the positive side, Moreau does occasionally manage to create the illusion of independent life, in spite of the incessant ticking of the plot and some of the flattest dialogue imaginable. That illusion, of course, is dissolved late in the film by her one ringing declaration, "I'll save you!" That's a thing, alas, more appropriate for Jeanne d'Arc than for Jeanne Moreau.

    Some nice, crisp, contrasty visuals appear regularly, although they are woefully self-conscious when compared with their obvious American models.

    The film has an impressive jazz score contributed by Miles Davis. Since everyone involved states this was fortuitous, it can only be regarded as a lucky break, not a basic building block of the movie or an example of the director's foresight.

    This is an occasionally handsome-looking, entirely plot-driven little fable for which I would normally assign three stars. It's lucky enough, however, to have an excellent musical score, so ... four stars....more info
  • Elevator to the Gallows
    An auspicious debut for Malle, just 25 when "Gallows" opened, this superb thriller pairs a noirish plot involving two murderous couples with a lurid, claustrophobic atmosphere. Julien's efforts to escape the crime scene are intercut with shots of the car thieves's dark exploits and Florence's aimless walks along the Champs-Elys¨¦es looking for Julien--a bold technique, in that the film's protagonists remain isolated for most of the picture. Moreau, who cemented her career on the strength of this performance, is a vision of distressed beauty, woefully illuminated by the glare of nighttime Paris. Lean direction, vivid camerawork, and a moody, soul-stirring jazz soundtrack by Miles Davis further emphasize the air of grim fatalism. Edgy and twisted, these "Gallows" will leave you hanging--and you'll love it....more info
  • Top floor film noir from one of the greats
    This was Louis Malle's first. Previously he had worked with Jacques Cousteau on "The Silent World" (interestingly enough) and now tried his hand at film noir. Several things fell into place to make this debut a memorable one.

    First, he was able to get Jeanne Moreau to play Florence Carala. She had previously been mostly a stage and B-movie player who was obviously very talented, but as Malle put it, not considered really photogenic. What she becomes after her performance here is a premier star of the French cinema partially because of the way she is photographed, and partly because she was so perfectly suited to the character, which I suspect she helped to create. She does a lot silently or with just a few words in the scenes where she walks the streets of Paris, frantic because her lover and fellow murder conspirator, Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) has stood her up and she cannot understand what has happened.

    Second, Malle's collaboration with screenwriter and novelist Roger Nimier adapting a roman thriller by Noel Calef to the screen turned out to be exactly right for the material, especially because they used mostly just the plot of the novel and expanded Moreau's role.

    The third factor was the fortuitous jazz score by Miles Davis. Davis happened to be in Paris as the movie was being edited and Malle was able to talk him into doing a trumpet-centered original score, said to have been composed on the fly late one night and early the next morning as Moreau drank champagne and listened.

    "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud," like so many American film noirs that it frankly resembles, is a murder done for love and money gone wrong. It is both a mistake by the murderer and fate itself that traps Julien Tavernier. But there is an intriguing complication in the person of young Louis (Georges Poujouly) who steals Julien's car and takes the flower girl (who admired the dashing Tavernier from afar) on an ill-fated joy ride. Unlike most of Malle's work to come, this is clearly a plot-driven, commercial flick (but oh, so exquisitely done!) without a hint of the usual autobiographical elements for which Malle is so well-known.

    The Criterion Collection two disc set features interviews with Moreau, Malle and others, and includes Malle's student film, "Crazeologie," (after a Charlie Parker tune) a "theater of the absurd" little ditty about which I can only say I would never have guessed that Louis Malle was the auteur. "Elevator to the Gallows" itself is a beautifully restored high-definition black and white transfer with new and excellent subtitles. There is a booklet with an insightful review by Terrence Rafferty and part of a very interesting interview with Malle conducted by Philip French.

    By the way, Malle was 24-years-old when he made this film and commented that he was very worried about his ability to work with actors since he had "spent four years" previously "filming fish"! (quoting from the Philip French interview). He gives Jeanne Moreau credit for being "incredibly helpful" until he lost his fear of actors.

    So, see this for Jeanne Moreau, one of the legends of the French cinema, who displays here a kind of magnetic sexuality that had me thoroughly intrigued....more info
  • Inches From Escape and Miles Apart (recommended)
    Amid war, espionage and social oppression, wealthy Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau), fed up with her corrupt husband, becomes enamored with one of his most trusted employees, Julien Travernier (Maurice Ronet). Together, they plot a way for their hearts to belong exclusively to one another. Separated in a manner neither could imagine, forlorn Florence is silently consumed by jealousy, blame, fear, and desperation as she searches all night, warmed only by the passion of her desire. By chance, young lovers Louis (Georges Poujouly) and Veronique (Yori Bertin), intersect paths with Julien and Florence in ways that forever alters the future of all four.

    With skillful direction and co-authorship, Louis Malle depicts indifferent anti-social behavior capitulating 10 years after this directorial debut. Optimizing a minimal budget, the film-noir ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS employs stark natural lighting, shadows, and alternating depth-of-field, punctuated with just enough dialogue to make reading English subtitles a necessity but not a chore. ELEVATOR conveys the feeling that one is witnessing the genesis of something big. Indeed, the synergism of creative expression combined in roughly 90 minutes helped define future roles of Louis Malle, Jeanne Moreau, and Miles Davis.

    The Criterion Collection of DVD extras makes this a true collector's item. With the silent film projected in front of him from a light booth over his shoulder, watch Miles Davis interpret the emotions of Moreau as she wanders along the Champs-Elysees under Paris streetlights. Listen to ambitious director Malle confidently discuss his yet-to-be-released film. Then sit down with him 18 years later as he reveals its impact on cinema. Hear Moreau in the 21st century convey how ELEVATOR was a catalyst for similar emotional attachment between her and the director nearly 50 years ago. At the 1993 Caines Festival, Moreau and Malle sit down together to share when they first met; Malle reveals that Moreau's prominent "Have you seen Julien?" introspective role was absent from the original novel but crafted just for her to give the film its enduring impact. Such footage is spectacular.

    Like Hitchcock, Malle makes a brief cameo appearance. A lighthearted reference to his prior experience with Jacques Cousteau is made when a woman tells Veronique, "You ought to try underwater photography." It is amazing to think that prior to ELEVATOR, the only thing Malle directed was fish.

    The spatial void of physical contact, melancholy music, and to American audiences, lack of English dialogue may leave some wanting more action. But such desire turns out to be a platform for power in the movie -- the sense of an unsatiated night of emotional turmoil transmigrates to the viewer. If I were were fluent in French, I would likely rate this movie with 5 stars. Feeling that some of the natural dialogue is lost in the translation, I subtract one when recommending to fellow English speaking viewers.

    Movie quote: "I lost you in the night Julien. I shouldn't have kissed you or caressed your face. If you didn't kill Simon, never mind. If you were afraid, so much better. But you must come back."...more info
  • Ironic murder mystery
    Louis Malle's classic French film noir "Elevator to the Gallows" is accompanied by a smooth musical score courtesy of legendary jazz musician Miles Davis. Pouty lipped femme fatale Jeanne Moreau, in a pivotal early role, playing Mme. Carala, young wife of wealthy arms merchant Simon Carala played by Jean Wall is an accomplice in a murder plot. She and her husband's business associate Julien Tavernier played by Maurice Ronet, an ex-paratrooper in Indochina and Algeria plot to kill Moreau's husband by faking a suicide.

    Everything goes as planned until Ronet spots a rope he used to rapel up to Mr. Carala's office as he's departing in his convertible. When returning to the office, he gets trapped in the elevator as the company's security guard turns off the electricity for the weekend.

    Meanwhile, a young flower shop girl and her delinquent boyfriend steal Tavernier's car and go on an escapade which results in the shooting of a German couple at a motel. The young man, Louis is posing as Tavernier and uses his revolver to commit the murder.

    Moreau while waiting at a cafe for her beloved Tavernier, spots his stolen car with the young flower shop girl hanging out of the window. Thinking she's been jilted, she roams the rainswept Paris streets in a state of bewilderment mourning the loss of her lover.

    Tavernier finally released from his entombment in the elevator quickly gets picked up for the murder of the German couple. In a twisted conclusion, justice is aptly served to the whole array of criminals involved in the respective murders....more info
  • a murderer trapped in an elevator
    This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

    Elevator to the Gallows, known in France as "Ascenseur pour l'¨¦chafaud" is Loius Malle's first major film.

    It follows a man who murders his boss in his office and gets trapped in the office building elevator when the power is shut off for the night.

    The film has an excellent original score improvised by Miles Davis.

    The DVD has some fine special features in a double disc set.

    Disc 1 contains the film with theatrical trailers.

    Disc two contains an interview with actor Jeanne Moreau, director Louis Malle, actors Maurice Ronet, Maurice Moreau, and soundtrack pianist Ren¨¦ Urtreger, Footage of Miles Davus and Louis Malle during the soundtrack recording, a film about the score with music critic, Gary Giddins and jazz musician Jon Faddis. Also included is Louis Malle's first student film Crazeologie.

    This is the best edition of the film currently available and I recommend it highly...more info