22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars classy French film noir
An enjoyable black-and-white French thriller from the late fifties, featuring all the usual themes of the film noir genre: love and betrayal, murder, fatalism, seedy glamour, unlikely plot twists, and so forth. It was Louis Malle's directorial debut and Jeanne Moreau's first leading role in a feature film, and was a big commercial success at the time -- neither of them...
Published on 23 July 2007 by Nelkin
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Miles, Paris, ...
I bought this because I'm a Miles Davis fan, and cos I like cool movies from the 60's.
The soundtrack is lovely, the movie cool.
The plot is a little ropey, it is definitely style over content.
A collectors piece.
Published on 9 July 2011 by rudyardx
Most Helpful First | Newest First
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars classy French film noir,
An enjoyable black-and-white French thriller from the late fifties, featuring all the usual themes of the film noir genre: love and betrayal, murder, fatalism, seedy glamour, unlikely plot twists, and so forth. It was Louis Malle's directorial debut and Jeanne Moreau's first leading role in a feature film, and was a big commercial success at the time -- neither of them looked back after this. It was also distinguished by an excellent soundtrack, composed by Miles Davis in his usual ad-hoc manner using a pick-up band of musicians he was barely even on first-name terms with. Nowadays the connection between jazz and film noir seems obvious -- a cliche, even -- but that has a lot to do with the success of this film, and the excellent marriage of music and action achieved by Miles Davis and his musicians.
For a film nearly fifty years old, I must say it has aged well, even if some of the plot devices are a bit clunky. Visually it's a treat, with very stylish camera work. I particularly like the night shots of Paris early in the film, with Jeanne Moreau wandering blindly around in the rain looking for her lover; I also enjoyed the (highly stylised) interrogation sequence near the end, which I'm sure has little resemblance to real interrogation but which captures superbly the isolation and disorientation of the male protagonist. Some people lump this film in with the Nouvelle Vague scene that became fashionable a few years later, and maybe in some respects there is a bit of a family resemblance; Malle, though, always resisted attempts to classify him as part of the Nouvelle Vague movement.
I should add that the extra features are a bit meagre compared with what we're accustomed to on DVD releases these days. There are just a couple of short interviews, one with Louis Malle's brother -- Malle himself died in 1995 -- and also one with Rene Urtreger, the pianist who played on the soundtrack. If not for the lack of bonus material, I would probably have given it five out of five, because on the whole it's quite a nice package. In short: good film, good music, well worth a viewing if you haven't seen it before.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant New-Wave Thriller.,
This review is from: Lift To The Scaffold  [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud along with Les Mistons and Et Dieu...Crea La Femme is seen as the birth of the French New Wave, shortly after this films such as A Bout de Souffle and Les Quatre Cents Coups followed. As Breathless, Bande a Part & Shoot the Pianist, this is heavily inflected with the influence of the Film Noir mode in Hollywood- Lift to the Scaffold not being dissimilar to such films as Double Indemnity & The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Maurice Ronet plays Julien Tavernier- an ex-Army officer who had been involved in Algeria- he is having an affair with his boss's wife (Jeanne Moreau) & they have a plan to murder her husband. The perfect plan is put into practice, with a nice nod towards the ethics of the arms trade, the only problem being a ringing phone & a forgotten detail. As Tavernier is about to make the perfect exit he sees the missing link, returns to the building...& is trapped in the lift in the building where the corpse is waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile Tavernier's car is stolen by a young couple, seen by Moreau, & their adventure leads to a German couple, some champagne, a photograph & a gun...
Lift to the Scaffold works very well as a thriller, Miles Davis' brilliant soundtrack (improvised to images, the musical equivalent of the New Wave approach to film) compounds this feeling- one scene where Tavernier dangles from a lift is as adrenaline fuelled as anything like Die Hard. There are some great twists, as with Postman/Twice there is an ironic twist regarding murder- though I'm thinking more of Cain's book- where the protoganist is found guilty of an accident, but innocent of the murder he committed.
Familiar iconography to the Nouvelle Vague appears- the gun, the raincoat, the car, roads, girls with short hair in beds, the natural way in which it is shot ,cafe's, telephones- reminding you of later works such as Breathless, Alphaville, Shoot the Pianist, Le Peau Douce, Pierret Le Fou & Les Quatre Cents Coups.
The end scenes are even more inventive- the interrogation scene shot to a black-backdrop- like a theatre; this can be seen as an influence on scenes in George Lucas's THX-1138- which merely reversese the colour scheme (black to white). Another brilliant use of imagery is the use of developing/developed photographs- still images telling a story in a frozen manner not unlike La Jetee.
Lift to the Scaffold has dated very well, anyone who loves Film Noir should adore this, though the feeling of cool nihilistic youth ties in with the more enjoyable early works of the New Wave- such as A Bout de Souffle and Bande a Part. For anyone who has wondered about the validity of the New Wave & been confounded by the dull costume drama of The Last Metro or the oblique Eloge de l'amour- here is a major reason why this movement was so vital to cinema. A classic.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top floor film noir from one of the greats,
This review is from: Criterion Coll: Elevator to the Gallows [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Louis Malle with great Miles Davis jazz track,
This review is from: Lift To The Scaffold  [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"When Miles was touring France, he was engaged to play a background score to the film 'Ascenseur pour L'echafaud'... the recording was made at night in a Paris radio studio and the atmosphere was very relaxed. The musicians watched the principal scenes of the film and improvised as they watched. It is important to stress the improvisatory nature of the music as it is most unusual to allow any degree of freedom to musicians recording a score where it is so essential to attain perfect synchronisation. At one point, during the playing of Diner au Motel, a fragment of skin was detatched from Miles' lip and into the embrouchure, but he just kept on playing." Albert McCarty wrote on the cover notes for the vinyl "Jazz Track" ablum(CL1268). Pierre Michelot (Bass), Rene Urtreger (Piano), Barney Wilen (Tenor).
Louis Malle directed his own screenplay for this fast-moving thriller with many twists. Jeanne Moreau plays the beautiful wife caught the tangled web.
In the history of film making it is most noted for being one of the first with a jazz score, with Miles Davis setting the standard for the use of jazz in films involving violence and crime. This is Miles Davis at his best.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The black cat has it...,
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (AKA: Elevator to the Gallows/Lift to the Scaffold) is directed by Louis Malle and co-written by Malle, Roger Nimier and Noël Calef (novel). It stars Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin and Jean Wall. Music is by Miles Davis and cinematography by Henri Decaë.
A little ole devil this one, a sly slow pacer that itches away at your skin. Rightly seen as a bridging movie between the classic film noir cycle and the nouvelle vague, Malle's movie is in truth straightforward on narrative terms. Julien Tavernier (Ronet) is going to kill husband of his lover, Florence Carala (Moreau), who also happens to be his boss, but upon executing the perfect murder, he, through his own absent mindedness, winds up stuck in a lift close to the crime scene. Outside Florence is frantically awaiting his arrival so as to begin their life together in earnest, but when a couple of young lovers steal Julien's car, Florence gets the wrong end of the stick and a sequence of events lead to Julien and Florence hitching that ride to the gallows.
Simplicity of narrative be damned, Malle's movie is a classic case of that mattering not one jot. There is style to burn here, with bleak atmospherics dripping from every frame, and Miles Davis' sultry jazz music hovers over proceedings like a sleazy grim reaper. The ironic twists in the writing come straight off the bus to noirville, putting stings in the tale, the smart reverse of the norm finding Moreau (sensual) wandering the streets looking for her male lover, while elsewhere he's in isolation and a doppleganger murder scenario is cunningly being played out. Decaë's photography has a moody desperation about it that so fits the story, the use of natural light making fellow French film makers sit up and take notice. While the dialogue, and the caustic aside to arms dealings, ensures we know that Malle can be a sly old fox. He really should have done more noir like pictures.
A film that convinces us that Julien and Florence are deeply in love and passionate about each other, and yet they never are once together in the whole movie! It's just one of the many wonderful things about Louis Malle's excellent picture.
Remember folks, the camera never lies... 8/10
4.0 out of 5 stars Jeanne Moreau + Miles Davis!,
This review is from: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) [All Region] [import] (DVD)
Classic, French film-noir with Miles Davis original score created just 1 year before his ground-breaking album 'Kind of Blue' - it was a must have for me. It does have a couple of 'improbable' moments (hence 4-stars) but compensates with it's fair share of twists in the plot - fine tho' for the year - 1958. I then downloaded the 26 track (albeit short tracks) mp3 album
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film, even better music,
This review is from: Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud- DVD (DVD)
The plot of the film is very forced, but ingenious at the same time. The music by Miles is supreme and makes it. LOved Jeanne Moreau
5.0 out of 5 stars Lift to the Scaffold,
The item is like new.
The story is very very good.
How Jeanne Moreau was young and beutiful.
Highly recommend you to wach this film.
4.0 out of 5 stars Jolie voitures!,
Accessible, twisty and rather enthralling, subtly photographed, classic risk-taking piece with the Miles Davis music better known than the film amongst the knowing jazz aficionados. To some it's just a film score and a rather good one. Am I right, but I get the feeling there's not a Malle film which is top notch? There are lots which are very good. Like Chabrol. You keep watching and enjoying and then you go to bed needing a hot water bottle? Perhaps someone can advise!
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent film noir,
A truly great film by Louis Malle starring the lovely
Jeanne Moreau and the late Maurice Ronet.
A slicky classic thriller - not a Hitchcok, but wonderfully
Played out by Jeanne Moreau as the beautiful wealthy
Blonde who with her lover, conspire to murder her husband.
Things do not work out as planned and the viewer is not
Disappointed by the outcome.
A must for those who enjoy a murder with a twist.
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Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) [All Region] [import] by Louis Malle (DVD)