1 October 2005

Review: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (4/5)

This film could've had a much longer release that one week. The plot, varied characters, and camera work are enjoyable and fresh even 50 years later.

The drama begins almost immediately as a love triangle (the lovers played by Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet) ends in the murder of the wealthy husband (Jean Wall). The resulting unexpected, and skillfully clumsy, complications that result involve the complicit wife and her lover (the dead man's assistant) and a young couple (Yori Bertin and Georges Poujouly) who are at first only marginally associated with the conspirators. The movie follows their separated paths after the murder, and we see how their fates become bound together and at certain points are even swapped.

The opening scene sets us up for the over-the-top, impassioned dialog we get throughout the film and frames it with stylistic perfection: close up of the faces of the two leads declaring their love over the phone and in low voices. Their separation in that scene, and their internal passion that keeps a cool exterior, are key throughout the film. The young couple, a flower girl and a petulant James Dean, improbably steal the murderers' identities and car (leading to a fateful car ride that anticipates the one in Breathless). When the young lovers attempt suicide in order to avoid incarceration, the girl declares that although they must be apart they "will live together in headlines." This statement is echoed by Jeanne as she gazes at a photo of her and Maurice.

The melodramatic dialog, sometimes stylish and sometimes clumsy, is lent a realistic immediacy by the intimate shots. The contrast between the affected and honest, both in speech and visually, enhances both. In one scene, the young Yori Bertin childishly gushes over the luxury of staying at a Motel, in another she over-seriously tries to comfort the pouting James Dean.

See short previous post and file under French New Wave.

[ posted by sstrader on 1 October 2005 at 12:44:49 PM in Cinema ]