Lift to the Scaffold

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

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Dir. Louis Malle

France 1958 | Black and White | 88 mins

Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly

In one of the seminal French films of the 1950s, a handsome veteran of the Indo-China and Algerian Wars (Maurice Ronet) and his lover (Jeanne Moreau) plan the murder of her arms-manufacturer husband. But on his way from the crime scene he’s trapped in a lift, she anxiously walks the night streets of Paris waiting for him, and a teenage couple steal his car and gun for a reckless joyride. Influenced by Hitchcock and Bresson, Malle consciously puts his individual stamp on an adaptation of an ingenious but otherwise conventional roman noir, much influenced by Double Indemnity. His co-screenwriter was a leading rightwing literary novelist, Roger Nimier. Miles Davis was persuaded to provide a superb score improvised in a single night, and for the high contrast black-and-white look Malle engaged the brilliant cinematographer Henri Decaë, who went on to shoot the first films of Chabrol and Truffaut. This triumphant feature debut helped turn Moreau into an iconic star, introduced the key themes that recurred in Malle’s work over the next 30-odd years and can be seen as the first movie of the Nouvelle Vague. - Philip French

Available on: DCP, DVD

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