…Marek Moehling. Is there anything he can’t do?
"Elevator to the Scaffold" was Malle’s first studio release, and what a cooly intelligent crackler it is. Miles Davis’ soundtrack is moody and tense, and well worth buying on its own. It’s my second-favorite French film soundtrack performed by an American jazz musician after Stan Getz’s Le Mort d’un Pourri.
The influence of American film noir (esp. Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, if you ask me, and yes, I know Billy Wilder’s not American) is still palpable, but the scenes featuring the toothsome Jeanne Moreau wandering the streets of Paris at night are unmistakable Malle. The DVD I watched has an interview with Malle filmed in the mid-1970s. Malle, looking tanned but tense, with questing, slightly protuberant eyes, sits in a room chain-smoking and chain-talking. He radiates a kind impersonal brilliance that, to me, is the trademark of the French intellectual. The interviewer, trapped in his wide lapels and de rigeur mid-70s aviator glasses, barely gets a word in edgewise. Several camera crews circle the table, paying no attention to whether they enter shots.
Malle says that during "Elevator," he tried to stage Paris as a modern, anonymous city: the film is built around the five most modern buildings Malle could find in mid-50s Paris, plus what was then the only luxury motor hotel in France. He expresses his gratitude to Jacques Cousteau for giving him his first break. The enormous challenges of filming underwater honed his technical skills, but, he adds, so did the challenges of "directing fishes."