Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud
France, 1958. Nouvelles Editions de Films. Adaptation by Roger Nimier, Louis Malle, dialogue by Roger Nimier, pre-adaptation by Noel Calef, based on his novel. Cinematography by Henri Decae. Produced by Jean Thuillier. Music by Miles Davis. Production Design by Jean Mandaroux, Rino Mondellini. Film Editing by Leonide Azar.
Louis Malle got his brilliant career off to a great start with his first feature film (he’d already been making documentaries including the highly successful Oscar-winning The Silent World). An act of violence splinters off in various directions after a high-ranking employee of an arms-dealing corporation (Maurice Ronet) kills the company’s boss and then gets stuck in the building’s elevator after the night watchman shuts off the power. His accomplice, the victim’s young and beautiful wife (Jeanne Moreau) waits at a nearby café thinking Ronet has abandoned her, while a joyriding couple take his car for a trip and commit mayhem in which our protagonist is implicated. A rich story and Henri Decae’s beautiful (as always) photography of a glinty, black-and-white Paris conspire for one of the highlights of the French New Wave, particularly considering it has the lovely Moreau at its emotional centre. Malle’s films would get even better (he really hit his stride by the 70s with masterpieces like Lacombe Lucien and Murmur Of The Heart) but there’s no denying he always had it to begin with.
The Criterion Collection: #335