Monday, March 5, 2012

Elevator to the Gallows. A-

A boss has ben murdered. A man is trapped in an elevator. His lover wanders the streets of Paris in search of him. Two teens in love steal the man's car and then get caught up in another murder. That's what's going on in Louis Malle's stellar and exciting debut film, Elevator to the Gallows. Malle combines the traditional hard boiled American crime story with the French New Wave noir, and as a result the movie has a lot more going for it. The entire story of the man trapped in the elevator (he's just killed the boss, so he can have the wife to himself) would be right at home in a 1940s thriller. The other narrative string involving the teenagers is like a precursor to Breathless. The style is more free, the characters wild as their unpredictable actions almost make them different people by the scene. I preferred the elevator plot line not so much because of the style but because it's pretty damn original. But Malle's not making two separate films here. These two plots are crucial to each other as the movie unwinds, and Malle employs some classic elements of detective fiction as his stories merge. Put Elevator to the Gallows and Breathless side by side and I'd take the former any day. Malle's respect for American film noir seems more genuine, while his incorporation of the Nouvelle Vague style is delicately balanced with it. Arguably a greater challenge than Godard, who wasn't restricted by tradition.

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