Panique: French Crime Classics: “Elevator to the Gallows” (1957) ★★★★★

A love affair of a married individual, either man or woman can end in so many ways. But there is only one which can be considered as drastic, desperate and dangerous when someone makes a  move towards the happiness those two people can possibly wish for – to eliminate one last barrier before beginning a new life – the still alive husband or wife. That said, to come up with the perfect crime or murder can be written in the best detective novels, however, what happens in Calef‘s novel adapted onto the silver screen by Louis Malle is another instance of not executing what had been planned, as the chain of unfortunate events may involve many more people… even accidentally.

Having said that, Elevator to the Gallows follows Florence Carala and her lover, a self-assured businessman, Julien Tavernier, who happens to be employed by Florence’s rich but much older spouse Simon Carala. Hoping to spend the rest of their life together, the two plan a perfect plan that seems to have no trouble to go smoothly as intended. However, one little mistake and a distracted phone call changes everything, having more than person killed and people’s lives put on the line…

What is amazing about Malle’s movie is when Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet never had to share the same scene in the entire movie to put on display their affectionate and reckless love for each other. They talk once on the phone and that one single moment happens in the beginning of the movie while the rest of the time Florence’s loud thoughts and Miles Davis’ beautifully and mystical soundtrack allows the viewer to grasp the power of the two’s affair. However, Malle’s camera is like a great witness of something great yet to come, which patiently follows Florence to ensure not even a single detail will be missed while she knows nothing of whether her and Julien’s plan worked or not.

Having used an opportunity to say much about the murder scene or what happens afterwards is a power every film critic should probably use when it comes to reviewing a difficult to describe film like this. It has so much but very little, it threatens to spoil the viewer’s expectation which in fact will satisfy any viewer whether you like old-fashioned crime movies or not. With Malle’s approach and unique vision, he knows how to connect the dots, how to bring two people together without having them in one scene is indeed a skill not many would have nowadays.

In conclusion, the concept of the movie is very complicated and deep. It’s a nail-bitting thriller where you will probably find yourself screaming, “look back or don’t do it at all.” Despite this movie being made many decades ago, it’s still mesmerizing, capturing and smart. There is a little chance in the twenty-first century that somebody can create a piece like this. But at the end of the day, why would we need another one, when we already have something really good that no way, even if you come up with a better plan, will you be able to outdate the quality of Elevator to the Gallows?


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