Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Genres - Thriller, Crime, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Post-Noir (Modern Noir), Psychological Thriller, Crime Thriller  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

The first feature of the 24-year-old Louis Malle, this assured film was one of the earliest rumblings of the Nouvelle Vague, a more conservative precursor to Godard's Breathless. Claiming a desire to combine the disparate styles of Bresson and Hitchcock, Malle's film is less a noir than a low-key meditation on the genre, as shots of a disconsolate Jeanne Moreau walking the streets of Paris in search of her lover (Maurice Ronet) are intercut with the adventures of the young couple who have stolen their car. Taking the familiar plot of homicidal lovers, Malle skips past the customary heavy breathing, beginning in medias res as the murder of Moreau's husband is carried out with clinical detachment. Ironically, Malle's older lovers are separated from each other for nearly the entire film, with Ronet's frantic efforts to get away from the scene of the crime almost a parody of the prisoner's calm demeanor in Bresson's contemporaneous A Man Escaped (1956). As the dominoes begin to fall, Moreau is reunited with Ronet, at least on paper, in one of the most elegant busts on celluloid. The melancholy of Miles Davis' improvised score underlines the film's tone of stoic fatalism.