Sparkle (15) Sugarhouse (15) The Walker (15) Waitress (12A)

FilmExposed Reviews

28 Weeks Later (18)
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold)
Beyond Hatred
Black Snake Moan (15)
Captivity (18)
Cheeni Kum (Less Sugar) (PG)
Chinatown (15)
City of Violence (18)
Conversations with Other Women (15)
Edmond (18)
Exiled (Fong juk ) (15)
Flanders (Flandres) (18)
Flyboys (12A)
Ghosts of Cité Soleil (15)
Grow Your Own (PG)
I for India
Jindabyne (15)
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (15)
Jules Et Jim (PG)
Klimt (15)
La Vie En Rose (La Môme) (12)
Last Tango in Paris (Ultimo tango a Parigi) (18)
Les 400 Coups (PG)
Lovewrecked (PG)
Macbeth (15)
Magicians (15)
Molière (PG)
My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami) (12A)
Not Here To Be Loved (15)
Opening Night (15)
Paradise Lost (18)
Paris Je T’Aime (15)
Private Fears in Public Places
Requiem For A Dream (18)
Running Stumbled
Sherrybaby (15)
Shutter (15)
Sketches of Frank Gehry (12A)
Sparkle (15)
Sugarhouse (15)
Taking Liberties (12A)
Tales from Earthsea (PG)
Taxidermia (18)
Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) (15)
Ten Canoes (15)
The All Together (15)
The Bothersome Man
The Flying Scotsman (15)
The Golden Door (PG)
The Night of the Sunflowers (La Noche De Los Girasoles) (15)
The Walker (15)
The War On Democracy
The Wild Blue Yonder
This Is England (18)
Transylvania (15)
Waitress (12A)
Water (12A)
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (PG)
Wild Tigers I Have Known (18)
Zodiac (15)

Review not listed?
Click Here for More
FilmExposed Film Reviews

A FilmExposed Film Review

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold)

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold)

Dir: Louis Malle, 1958, France, 88mins, French with subtitles
Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin

Sleek and stylish, Louis Malle's first feature, a mildly Hitchcockian, noirish thriller, is one of those movies suited perfectly to black and white cinema. Instinctively, the noir genre loves to grey our understanding, foggy our perspective and nudge dormant paranoia. Somehow, colour seems too gaudy for the atmosphere of suspicion and muted expression which great noir subtlety generates.

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud is all about the chaos of best laid plans. Maurice Ronet plays Julien Tavernier, an ex-paratrooper turned businessman who murders his arms dealing boss, Simon Carala. Waiting for him after he commits the crime, is the boss’s wife, Florence, played by iconic French actress Jeanne Moreau. It is a classic set-up, greed, love and murder among the morally bankrupt bourgeouis. Inevitably, things go wrong. Julien ends up trapped in a lift as he attempts to remove an incriminating piece of evidence (a rope) which has been left behind. Cue waiting lover thrown into panic and two delinquents who steal Julien’s car and precipitate more deaths with his gun.

One of Ascenseur’s most notable features is the remarkable score performed by Miles Davis. He apparently improvised the soundtrack while watching the movie, and, being such an instinctive craftsman, produces something which intrinsically follows the mood of the film. The music evokes a sense of New Orleans sleaziness, of whirring fans in stultifying heat. That sense becomes tension in this film, as the plotting lovers slowly see their intricate plan fall apart. Malle was 25 when he made this film and his swaggering talent is undeniable here. Particularly memorable, is Moreau’s desperate nocturnal search for her lover. It is full of drama and yet shorn of any particularly snappy dialogue or narrative. Instead, you see her sink deeper and deeper into the twilight city, a world which her privileged background is unlikely to have witnessed.

Malle determinedly offers little clue about the relationship between the two lovers. We never get an idea of how the murder was hatched from their intense love. Both stars are a little too muted, so detached and cool, cocooned inside the slinky Davis score. It causes the tension to somewhat ebb. The sub-plot, involving the delinquents, is a somewhat contrived, unimaginative chain reaction of events. You get the feeling Malle lacked that Hitchcockian eye for drama. The rope left behind should have been a key prop, imbued with a kind of greater significance as it proves their undoing. Yet in Ascenseur, the prop used looks more like a piece of string and watching Julien use it to climb the outside of a building actually stretches credulity.

But for all the technical skill, does Malle produce something that stands alone as a great film? If CHINATOWN (1974) is something approaching a noir yardstick, then Ascenseur falls a little short. The film doesn’t entirely filter the atmosphere of 1950s Paris into its flow in the way that ROMAN POLANSKI so masterfully did in his aforementioned classic. That said, Malle is universally acknowledged as vital in the evolution of French cinema. Perhaps this film sits better as a historical document rather than great art.


Vik Iyer

Go Back
Copyright © 2007. All material belongs to FilmExposed Magazine unless otherwise stated.
An Opensauce Project