Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Directed by Louis Malle

A self-assured businessman murders his employer, the husband of his mistress, which unintentionally provokes an ill-fated chain of events.

[An] almost insolently proficient Série noire thriller. […] The new wave doesn’t quite get born in Elevator to the Gallows, but it’s clearly in the late term here, more than ready to emerge. You can sense it in Decaë’s remarkably daring natural-light cinematography[;] in the funky ebullience of young bit players[;] and, most of all, in the unleashing of Jeanne Moreau, who, nearing thirty, was a busy actress but never quite a star until Malle turned her loose in the nocturnal city and did justice, for the first time, to that amazing, imperious, gravelly sexy walk of hers—which would, over the next couple of decades, come to seem the defining movement of the new wave, the embodied rhythm of freedom.

Terrence Rafferty (Criterion)


Julien’s entrapment in the elevator is a Hitchcockian flourish, a delicious twist of fate that essentially cuts Julien out of his own story while giving him a symbolic preview of the prison sentence his murder has earned him.

Chuck Bowen (Slant Magazine)


The music puts across the mentality of a wise, unsentimental American (specifically a black American) who knows that white French filmmakers and writers tend to sentimentalize and even caricature American blackness, jazz music, Yankee signifiers of "cool," and the more brazen postwar trappings of American life [b]but are happy to encourage their fantasies, up to a point, because they come from affection and respect, and are a lot better than what they had back in the States.

Matt Zoller Seitz (RogerEbert.com)


Elevator to the Gallows’s failing is that it’s incapable of spreading Moreau’s passion and sadness to its crime-thriller narrative, an attempt at fatalistic irony that awkwardly mixes elements of Hitchcock and Bresson films without ever generating substantial tension or surprise.

Nick Schager
(Slant Magazine)