Louis Malle, a valedictorian in French cinema in the late 50s who could never fully match the magical quality of his debut feature. One could have a field day picking at the film's lack of continuity, its inconsequential temporal shifts, its fragmented causality. Then you realise that it is indicative of an emerging New Wave school of thought inherent in the work of Truffaut, Godard, Becker and Melville. Marvellous.
I've heard the claim that jazz music wasn't synonymous with noir films until after this film came out, or films like M Squad with music by Count Basie in the following year. Is it true that the jazz failed to enter noir until the late 1950's? Anyone know? Either way - despite its flaws, this is a wonderful old flick by Louis Malle.
I remember that Godard once said, in his overgeneralizing way, that the French don't know how to tell stories. So it's worth noting that Gallows has innumerable plot hiccups that any Hollywood hack screenwriter would know should be fixed. (To whit, characters are stunningly, inconsistently dumb). But it gets politics and romance right, and the idea of never letting the lovers share a scene is a brilliant conceit.
To me, there seems to be an issue here with the film not knowing it's own greatness. Basically what I'm saying is this: Why didn't they give Jeanne Moreau more screen time. It would have been interesting to have a noir with the femme fatale as the main character. The last third is also a slog, as we, the audience, are way ahead of the characters and thus have to wait for them to get the truth we already know.
Technically impressive and elegantly plotted, but in a programmatic way that allows for few grace notes. Still compelling. Weakest element: Moreau's voiceover, articulating thoughts and subtext we can easily infer. Best element: Miles, duh.
Elevator to the Gallows is a film with singular style. In my opinion, Miles Davis' sultry trumpet lays the foundation for the greatest soundtrack of all time. Jeanne Moreau is able to say so much through her facial expressions. The film's components are nothing short of stunning.
A skillful construction of mishaps that uses its irony in such a way that even the most explosive petards never really feel funny, instead deepening the sense of postwar, pre-New Wave cynicism that hangs over the film. Davis' score is beautiful on CD, but in context it's one of his most pained, lonely works. A great film.
Director Louis Malle's feature debut is a stylish crime thriller with a clever story, solid performances, and great black and white cinematography - unfortunately the slow pace dampens much of the suspense. Maybe only a minor classic, but fans of hardboiled crime stories will find plenty to appreciate here. Great jazz score by Miles Davis.