Elevator to the Gallows would make an excellent double feature with Breathless. It's clear that Godard saw something in Malle's combination of Hollywood style noir and art film experimentation. Even the characters' costuming and their stylized manner of speech connects the two films thematically and artistically. However, there is one key difference to these films. Whereas Breathless is clearly centered around the point of view of Jean-Paul Belmondo's roguish thief, ETTG is much more concerned with Jeanne Moreau's experiences. In fact, many of the film's most memorable shots are lovingly photographed close-ups of Moreau's face.

The fact that a great deal of the film is devoted to Moreau's wanderings through Paris speaks to one of ETTG's most memorable quirks; it establishes and then upsets the audience's narrative expectations, all within its first act. We think we are about to witness the aftermath of a murder as Moreau and her beau elude the cops. Instead, their escape is delayed when her lover is trapped in an elevator and his car is stolen by a teen couple. It is this teen couple who lives out the lovers-on-the-run fantasy which was promised in the set up while Moreau pines over her missing boyfriend, assuming he has abandoned her for another lover. This expertly handled dual narrative speaks to Malle's confidence juggling complex plot devices as well as pushing the boundaries of traditional cinematography.

Elevator to the Gallows is one of the most patently entertaining and visually intoxicating films of the early Nouvelle Vague. Plus, its original soundtrack courtesy of Miles Davis is one of the finest uses of jazz in all of French cinema. Though it's mostly remembered as Jeanne Moreau's ascendance to worldwide celebrity, ETTG is as essential as any film from the period.


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