"Very Good"

Review


It's clear from the opening minutes of "Elevator to the Gallows" why this 1957 film -- with it's ahead-of-its-time sense of style, its haunting-yet-cool score improvised by Miles Davis and its ironic, post-modern take on film noir -- became the progenitor of a whole New Wave in French cinema.

The uncomplicated yet ingeniously knotted plot takes a classic noir murder -- a man killing his lover's husband so they can be together -- strips away the genre clichés and infuses the film with the introspective moodiness, dynamic camerawork, unadorned location shots, and stylized but emotionally naked performances that would become a hallmark of the New Wave pictures that followed by Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and Malle himself.

To put it in backwards-thinking terms, the 24-year-old Malle was the Quentin Tarantino of his day, giving French cinema a creative, instantly influential shot in the arm that spawned imitators and opened new horizons in directorial thinking.

Maurice Ronet plays Julien, a daring former paratrooper with a streak of subtle ruthlessness who is an executive in the company owned by his victim. He begins the film in an impassioned final phone call to Florence (Jeanne Moreau, in her mesmerizing debut), the beautiful young trophy wife who is not your usual femme fatale, before setting his foolproof plan in motion.

But after setting the stage of a fake suicide, one absent-minded slip dominos into disaster: Julien becomes trapped in his office building's elevator (the power has been shut off for the weekend), without an alibi, while a leather-jacketed juvenile delinquent and his girlfriend take his car for a joyride that ends in two more murders, with all the evidence pointing to Julien.

Meanwhile, Florence has spotted his car leaving town with the young punk's pretty girlfriend in the passenger seat and, assuming she's been betrayed, wanders the gritty, atmospheric streets of Paris all night in an engrossing haze of mistaken heartbreak.Ironic twists that are brilliant in their simplicity and apparent inevitability raise the stakes even further after the bodies are discovered, and Malle ties up his story in a surprisingly tight package that leaves only a few nitpicky questions unanswered -- most of them just doubts about the extreme post-murder absentmindedness that got Julien into this fix in the first place.

But such trifles are commonplace even in the best noir thrillers, and this one is so groundbreakingly atypical that nagging questions seem just part of the mood. Not unlike "Pulp Fiction," "Elevator to the Gallows" is a film in which one can feel the influence of reinvention vividly and spontaneously in every moment, whether or not you know anything about the movement in cinematic style it inspired.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.