Ascension to the Scaffold

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September 12, 2008 00:00  |  1 Comment

Ciné lumière France | 1957 | B&W | 90 mins | French with English subtitles

Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud, a.k.a. Lift to the Gallows (U.S.), opens with the famous foggy close-up shot of breathy Jeanne Moreau on the phone, the smoky noir, secret passionate lovers atmosphere established from the very beginning. The diegetic sound is suddenly cut off, the camera zoomed out, and the audience hears Miles Davis’ mournful Nuit Sur Les Champs-Élysées.

Often described as the prototype of the “New Wave proper”, Malle’s debut feature — like many other French films of the 40s-50s — was adapted from a pulp-fiction crime novel (by Noel Calef of the same title). Florence (Jeanne Moreau) is in love with Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet), a former Vietnam and Algerian paratrooper, who now works for her husband. Together they are hatching a plot to murder her husband and to escape together. But Tavernier gets stuck inside an elevator after killing M. Carala, and Florence wanders around rain-washed Paris looking for him. Interweaved as well as running parallel to this is the story of a youthful couple, Louis and Veronique, young with a taste for melodrama and romantic adventures, their fate and crime equally doomed.

Despite a few ridiculous touches (some might argue make the best noirs), Henri Decae’s grainy cinematography, Malle’s editing, Moreau’s acting and Miles Davis’ moody scores sumptuously blend Ascension into an atmospheric thriller of murder and mistaken identities.

Related items:

  • Ascension pour l’Echafaud OST (Audio CD | Miles Davis | 1958)
  • Zazie Dans le Metro (DVD | Louis Malle | 1960)
  • Breathless (DVD | Jean-Luc Godard | 1960)
  • Spirits of the Dead (DVD | Federico Fellini, Louis Malle)
  • Goodbye, Children (DVD | Louis Malle, 1987)
  • A History of the French New Wave Cinema (Book – Non Fiction | Richard Neupert | U. of Wisconsin Press)
  • Cahiers du Cinema: 1960-1968 – New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood (Book – Non-Fiction | J. Hillier | Harvard Film Studies)

Ciné lumière France | 1957 | B&W | 90 mins | French with English subtitles

Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud, a.k.a. Lift to the Gallows (U.S.), opens with the famous foggy close-up shot of breathy Jeanne Moreau on the phone, the smoky noir, secret passionate lovers atmosphere established from the very beginning. The diegetic sound is suddenly cut off, the camera zoomed out, and the audience hears Miles Davis’ mournful Nuit Sur Les Champs-Élysées.

Often described as the prototype of the “New Wave proper”, Malle’s debut feature — like many other French films of the 40s-50s — was adapted from a pulp-fiction crime novel (by Noel Calef of the same title). Florence (Jeanne Moreau) is in love with Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet), a former Vietnam and Algerian paratrooper, who now works for her husband. Together they are hatching a plot to murder her husband and to escape together. But Tavernier gets stuck inside an elevator after killing M. Carala, and Florence wanders around rain-washed Paris looking for him. Interweaved as well as running parallel to this is the story of a youthful couple, Louis and Veronique, young with a taste for melodrama and romantic adventures, their fate and crime equally doomed.

Despite a few ridiculous touches (some might argue make the best noirs), Henri Decae’s grainy cinematography, Malle’s editing, Moreau’s acting and Miles Davis’ moody scores sumptuously blend Ascension into an atmospheric thriller of murder and mistaken identities.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://uk.youtube.com/v/uoQVRyh5aZE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Related items:

  • Ascension pour l’Echafaud OST (Audio CD | Miles Davis | 1958)
  • Zazie Dans le Metro (DVD | Louis Malle | 1960)
  • Breathless (DVD | Jean-Luc Godard | 1960)
  • Spirits of the Dead (DVD | Federico Fellini, Louis Malle)
  • Goodbye, Children (DVD | Louis Malle, 1987)
  • A History of the French New Wave Cinema (Book – Non Fiction | Richard Neupert | U. of Wisconsin Press)
  • Cahiers du Cinema: 1960-1968 – New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood (Book – Non-Fiction | J. Hillier | Harvard Film Studies)

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: Founding director, c2o library & collabtive. Currently also working in Singapore as a Research Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). Opinions are hers, and do not represent/reflect her employer(s), institution(s), or anyone else with whom she may be remotely affiliated.
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