Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) movie poster

director Louis Malle
viewed: 02/01/2014

Louis Malle’s first film is a French film noir whose convoluted plot seems almost downright American.  Maurice Ronet and Jeanne Moreau are lovers who plot the assassination of Moreau’s wealthy husband, Ronet’s employer.  She awaits him in a cafe as he sets himself up to sneak to the top floor office and shoot his boss.  Everything goes as planned until he realizes that he left a grappling hook on the side of the building.  He leaves his car running and zips back to the office only to get caught in the elevator when the power goes down for the weekend.  He’s stuck and Moreau wanders the streets of Paris looking for him.

Ronet’s car is stolen by a young hood and a girl from the flower shop.  They go on a tear but end up committing their own crime, murdering a couple of German tourists for their fancy car.  As Ronet escapes the web of crimes and events cinch up, eventually getting all the right people for the right crimes.

It’s a pretty cool film overall, though there are all these little things that challenge plausibility, such as when you see Ronet glance up at the grappling hook, you realize that he scaled the top floor of a building in the middle of a busy intersection.  It’s hard to believe no one noticed.  That sort of stuff.  Not super-relevant but there you go.

There seems to percolate some politics below the surface.  Ronet’s character is a war hero of sorts from Indochina and Algeria, something giving some context to who he is though I am not so sure how the implication would have read in 1958.  Also, the genial German tourist, jovially recalls his time in France during the war, which would have made him a former occupier, now turned friendly blowhard.

Pretty good movie, I think.

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