Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly
Director: Louis Malle
Running Time: 91 mins
Elevator To The Gallows (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud) is a French film about the chain of events that unfolds after a man murders his boss, with his mistress and a young couple all inadvertently intertwined.
Effortlessly slick in a way only films of the French New Wave can be, and full of surprises from start to finish, Elevator To The Gallows is a very entertaining thriller to watch. It’s not quite edge-of-your-seat stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a riveting and unpredictable story throughout, brought to life by excellent directing and a collection of strong performances.
But above all, there’s one thing that really makes the film pop, and that’s the soundtrack. On the whole, Elevator To The Gallows isn’t the fastest-moving film, and there are even some scenes in which we see a frustrated Jeanne Moreau slowly wandering around the streets at night, however the music gives even those scenes a real tension and energy that otherwise wouldn’t have been anywhere near as strong.
Of course, the sharp, film-noir-esque directing style of Louis Malle gives the film a real ambience, but the soundtrack (composed by none other than jazz legend Miles Davis) brings a strong beat to every moment of the film, and makes slower-looking scenes just as tense as some of the more action-packed moments. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that having a jazz score like this playing throughout a New Wave film puts this right up there as one of the most effortlessly cool and sleek films you’ll ever see.
Moving on from the music, however, onto Malle’s directing. As I said, there are elements of the film that have a decidely film-noir appearance, which does lend a certain something to the mystery side of the story. However, Malle also does a brilliant job at keeping his film as streamlined and clear as possible, without letting anything a little artier getting in the way of the story at hand.
This film has barely anything like some of the pretentious moments of Godard’s movies, however there are a couple of moments where you can see that Malle is trying to make something a little more artistic alongside the exciting thriller that the film is meant to be, but it’s great to see that he puts a good deal of effort into keeping that central story from ever getting muddled, something that helps a big deal.
In the end, the story here is what makes the film so entertaining to watch. I will give it marks down simply because it’s not quite as intensely exciting as I perhaps felt it could have been. However, it’s a very simple premise that follows a chain of events spiralling out of control from one tiny mistake, and the way that that happens so organically over the course of an hour and a half is really great to see, and with a collection of both unpredictable and entertaining twists throughout, it’s a really fun watch.
Overall, I really enjoyed Elevator To The Gallows. It’s not the world’s most intense thriller, but it’s still a mighty entertaining and riveting one from start to finish, not to mention the brilliant music and directing that brings the film such effortless style, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.