Elevator to the Gallows

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(Ascenseur pour l'échafaud). A recent restoration of Louis Malle's first feature, an elegant, Hitchcockian thriller made when the director was just twenty-four. Maurice Ronet and Jeanne Moreau star as an ex-paratrooper and his lover who plot to murder her industrialist husband. But their perfect murder goes awry: he becomes trapped in an elevator, his escape car is stolen by two teenagers on a spree which itself ends in murder, and Moreau is left to search Paris, seeking news of her missing lover. Adroitly bringing in the wider issues of the Indochina war, industry, and runaway machinery, Malle creates a milieu for his frantic, frustrated lovers (who never once share screen space) while an improvised score by Miles Davis becomes an abstraction of their punctuated existence. Moreau had been known more as a stage actress to this point; her performance here, a startling mix of girlish charm, steel, and dangerous sensuality, vaulted her to cinematic stardom.

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