"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

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Advertisement
Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

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.