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aka - Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud
France 1957
Directed by
Louis Malle
89 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Lift To The Scaffold

Louis Malle was only 25 years old when he hit the big time with his internationally successful first feature that mixes American film noir with Left Bank existentialism in a story about a young man, Julien (Maurice Ronet), who murders his boss with the complicity of the victim's wife, Florence (Jeanne Moreau), but is accused of another crime which he did not commit.

Malle lays out the narrative in parallel threads (Julien and Florence, for instance, never appear on screen together), a technique that tends to inhibit engagement at a dramatic level in what is otherwise a rather good crime passionel story. It also evidences a fine vigorous directorial talent whilst the impressive black and white cinematography by Henri Decaë means that the film is always very stylish, Decaë's location photography becoming the must-have look of the Nouvelle Vague although  in places it has a rather dated feel perhaps due more to budgetary constraints than anything else.

FYI: The film made a star of Moreau after10 years in the business. She and the director would pair up again for an even more commercially successful film, Les Amants released later the same year. The improvised score by Miles Davis was done in a single all-night session while Davis watched the film.




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