Ascenseur pour l’échafaud [1958]

15Feb12 – 8 – Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Louis Malle: 1958)

ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, 1958) has a fairly simple premise: a perfectly planned murder goes precisely as planned until the deed is carried out at which point everything goes wrong in quite unexpected ways. What struck me perhaps most about it is how close crime movies with this kind of intricate plotting are to farce. Indeed, there’s one scene that could be dropped whole into a Joe Orton play with only minor changes (translation into English, mostly

); it would be hilarious *even as played* by Georges Poujouly and Yori Bertin. And long stretches of the film reminded me so strongly of WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN that I wouldn’t be surprised if Almodóvar had it in mind.The ‘tubes copy of the film I watched has no sound at all for part 3 (of 10), which is a pity since that part contains most of Jeanne Moreau’s streetwalking to the fabulous Miles Davis soundtrack. It’s hard to believe this was Louis Malle’s directorial debut; his prior work with Robert Bresson and his admiration for Hitchcock are clearly on display. (Note: the plot synopsis in Wikipedia contains lots of spoilers and almost as many fake spoilers, so don’t rely on it if you want to bluff that you’ve seen the movie.) I *really* like the movie and want to score it higher, but for now Í give it 7/10. You *should* see it if you get the chance, but if you don’t that’s OK too. [2/15/12]

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