Film notes: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958), directed by Louis Malle


FR / 92 min / B&W / Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF) Dir: Louis Malle Pro: Jean Thuillier Scr: Adapted by Louis Malle and Roger Nimier, who also wrote the dialogues, from a 1956 novel of the same name by Noël Calef, pre-adapted by the author Cin: Henri Decaë Mus: Miles Davis Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Jean Wall, Iván Petrovich, Félix Marten, Lino Ventura Synopsis: Julien (Maurice Ronet) murders his boss, Mr. Carala, with the help of his lover (Jeanne Moreau), who is also Mr. Carala’s wife. On his way to the crime scene to dispose of a compromising clue, Julien finds himself stuck in the elevator. Meanwhile, Florence Carala, his mistress, wanders around Paris, searching for him. Release Dates: 29 January 1958 (France) May 1958 (Cannes Film Festival) 23 September 1966 (Barcelona, Spain). Original title: ‎‎ Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (aka Elevator to the Gallows or Elevator to the Scaffold or Frantic or Lift to the Scaffold) Spanish title: ‎‎Ascensor para el cadalso) IMDb Rating: 8.0.

919fii-T50L._SL1500_Louis Malle’s first full-length film, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, is adapted from a novel, by the same name, written by Noël Calef. The breathless suspense, the characters psychologies created by circumstances and actions rather than by dialogue, along with the insistent music of Miles Davis, have all made Ascenseur pour l’échafaud a masterpiece that has become part of the 1950s cinematic and cultural heritage. Shooting with natural light and filming with a hand-held camera have pioneered the way for the new filming methods and aesthetics of the “New Wave”, which came several months later. The music in this film plays an essential role: Miles Davis, the trumpet genius. and his jazzmen created the exhilarating melody without even seeing the entire movie. Louis Malle insisted that the music in the film not be played based on the plot, but at random. The result is a hard-bop jazzy soundtrack, which adds to the captivating, mysterious and especially disturbing atmosphere of Ascenseur pour l’échafaud.

Format: Blue-ray, Language: French, Subtitles: Spanish, Dubbed: None, Region: All Regions, Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, Number of discs: 1, ASIN: B01ALO47ZS.

A few days ago, I took the opportunity to buy, at a discount, a Blu-ray edition of Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. I undertand that there are several editions, and I’m not sure whether I bought the right one. But anyway, I’m not too fussy in this sense. In any case Begoña and I had the opportunity of viewing it yesterday night. Despite some flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. There are many and very good reasons to appreciate this film, the striking directorial debut of a young Louis Malle. The great performance of a young actress, Jeanne Moreau in the role of Florence Carala. The superb images captured by the cinematographer, Henri Decaë. And, last but not least, an impressive soundtrack by Miles Davis. All this turns this film into a cult classic.

A Contracorriente films data sheet (in Spanish)

Elevator to the Gallows: Louis Malle on the Ground Floor, by Terrence Rafferty

Films de France: Synopsis & Film Review

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