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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #28: Pure Score (Opening Scene of Elevators to the Gallows)

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In Florence's eyes and voice there is sadness, desparation, longing...."Je t'aime, Je t'aime."  Then we meet the desparate Julien on the other line. Then a smile from Florence and an at ease look from Julien..."Love isn't daring." Now smooth and sultry sounds of the trumpet begin as we watch our lovers have a tête-à-tête over the phone. She in a lonely phone booth on a busy street, somewhere, and he looking a out one of many lonely windows. End music and Florence gets serious and she has plan for them both to meet.  She's trapped wants to be free with Julien.  "Kiss me," as she caresses her cheek on the phone, so eager to be with Julien. She reluctantly hangs up the phone, as if she hangs up, she'll never see or hear Julien ever again. Her judgement seems clouded by the love/lust she has for Julien. Julien however says Florcence's name in a panic, not wanting her to hang up. He seems unsure about what they are going to do, but he eventually leaves with a bit of uncertainty.

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 what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?

It has a haunting yet kind of normal everyday feel.  it makes you feel something but for me its kind of melancholy.

Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?

I think because Jazz has so many styles.  It can get your attention at any moment with a sudden change or it can take you on a ride and let you know by sound when to pay attention for give to a hint when something is going to happen.  It can also help portray what the characters emotions are feeling, lonelinessdespair or excitement.

 

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-- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design? The smooth, suggestive, sexy score fits perfectly with the closeups and the love-making over the phone – it gives a new layer of intimacy. It’s even more effective after the lack of a score in the beginning of the clip – we only hear whispered lines and sighs.

 

-- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir? Jazz is the ultimate unpredictability within a framework. In many of these films, we were traveling somewhere, but we didn’t know where we would end up, which is somewhat true of improvisation in jazz. Jazz is also the ultimate sexy music, and these films almost always had a strong element of sex: temptation, submitting, troubles, always troubles. Also, this score has a cool, smooth, almost detached feeling – that’s a good description of many of the detectives and femmes fatale we’ve seen in these films, especially in the scripts by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler . 

 

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The music makes the film contemporary.  I do not know if it was filmed in the late 50's or 1960.   Florence's voice is very seductive, and her conversation with her lover, Julien, is sexual in undertone.  When she says she will "get in the car beside" you when it is over, you definitely get the sexual implications.  The music adds to this.  I got the feeling they were making love over the phone because of their below the surface passion for each other.  Jazz is unpredictable when being improvised.  Davis was the right guy to do the score.  I see they showed all the musicians' names in the credits.  That does not always usually happen in American films.  There are noir elements in the phone scene.  There is an light that just emphasizes Florence's eyes.  Also you cannot tell where she is until the camera pulls back, or what time it is.  These are two people who are contemporaries like us; but plan to do murder.  He says "love isn't daring."  And she says "don't say that."

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The opening scene of Elevator To The Gallows (1957) cuts back and forth in close-up shots of Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maruice Ronet) involved in a serious phone conversation.  The mood seems to be tense as the couple proclaim their love for one another and for the first 43 seconds the only sound we hear is the desperation in their voices until the lone shrill sound of Miles Davis' trumpet begins to underscore their solitary existence and longing to be together.  Davis' haunting score continues as the camera moves from a medium shot of Julien on the phone and as film credits roll, the camera zooms back until the frame is a long shot revealing an office building dwarfing Julien in a maze of windows and intersecting vertical and horizontal lines.  It appears clear that Florence is the one in control as she pushes Julien's emotional buttons and pulls the strings to get whatever it is she wants.  Even though the couple is exchanging words of love, the music score is telling us something different.  It's sad, it's lonely and empty, lacking the more emotional, upbeat tempo you would expect to accompany a pair of lovers exchanging affections and words of devotion.  Miles Davis' score definitely enhances Louis Malle's visuals and we know something is very wrong, very dark and something very noir is about to unfold on the screen. 

 

Side notes: I have not seen this film but from the clip I'm seeing Jeanne Moreau as a French version of Lizabeth Scott, meaning I can see her acting range go from sweet and vulnerable to wicked and hardcore in a New York second (whatever that is).  And is it just a coincidence the title is so similar to Build My Gallows High which Out of  the Past (1947) was based on?  One more note.  France used the guillotine for capital punishment right up to 1977.  So shouldn't the title have been "Elevator To The Guillotine"?        

Jeanne Moreau is one of France's greatest actresses.  I majored in French and got to see many French films.  We have returned to the place where Film Noir was defined.  We are in the home of Camus and his extentialism.  In America film noir seem to start in darkness.  But in this film, the darkness lasts only as long as the camera is in close-up.  It is an everyday scene where we could be walking near the phone booth on our way to work or lunch.

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– In what ways does Miles Davis’s score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle’s visual design?

 

The opening sequence of Elevator to the Gallows begins with alternating choker close-up shots of lovers Florence and Julien as they carry on a passionate telephone conversation in which they repeatedly declare their love for each other and their yearning to be free of the obstacle to their happiness.  As the credits begin, the images of the lovers’ conversation continue but Miles Davis’s jazz score substitutes in the soundtrack for their voices.  Thus the jazz bridges between the two sections of spoken dialogue and gives musical expression to the same feelings they have been voicing previously.  As the credits end, the music runs out and the voices return.  In addition to the declarations of love and support for each other, the discussion makes it clear that the event that will set the lovers free for each other will take place within the next half hour, thus raising expectation and creating suspense about what it is that Julien is about to undertake.

 

I think the “meaning” of the music is subjective and depends on the lifelong associations a person makes with certain styles and types of music and the situations in which that music is experienced.  To me this music says “music from an affair.”  On the basis of recollection alone and without having watched it in a while, I think Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat with score by John Berry, made some 23 years after Elevator to the Gallows, offers a parallel musical association.  But, according to IMDb trivia, Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet never share a scene together in Elevator to the Gallows (just phone conversations and still photographs), whereas Kathleen Turner and William Hurt do get very up close and personal in the later film.

 

– Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?

 

Jazz evolved on the margins of mainstream American society and was well suited to express the moods and experiences of film noir characters who frequently find themselves operating in the dark fringes of conventional society and morality.  Also, jazz flourished and developed in the very bars and clubs that figure so prominently as the locations for the action in films noir.  In that sense jazz is integral to the milieu in which many films noir take place.  Jazz continued to develop new faces and styles through the 1940s and 1950s and beyond, so filmmakers had no lack of styles from which to choose the right idiom for a particular film or scene.  For example, there were percussive rhythms to accompany violence, disorientation, or mental anguish as well as cool jazz to magnify the evolution of a doomed or fatal love relationship.  Finally, and this is very subjective, jazz seems better suited to the uncertainties and moral ambiguities of film noir than to conventional Hollywood films with happy endings.

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As somebody noted earlier, the line about the big car seems little bit funny, but in the French, I think it might function more as a double-entendre: "when it's over, you will take your big car, you'll stop directly across (from the cafe), I'll put myself in next to you, and we'll be free."  It's a nice modern nexus of cars, women, and freedom, replacing perhaps the Freudian train going through a tunnel? You have to admire a man with a big car.

 

The jazz could not be more evocative. The single line of the trumpet functions as a kind of human voice, languid, sultry, seductive, mournful. Its ambiguity makes it function as sexual foreplay, punctuated the heated passionate conversation. After seeing so many films noir, it occurred to me that the trumpet solo took the place of the narrator's flashback in starting off the film, suggesting the lonely musing that foreshadow that the characters will look back with regret, an embodiment of the story's fatal desire. The camera pulls back to reveal the male protagonist trapped in the grid of the building, with its implications of modern anxiety reacting to impersonal corporate demands. The music heats up in a sinuous, emotional counterpoint, reminding us that dark noir shadows can be cast even in the clean and controlled environment of the machine of modern life.  . 

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In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?


 


I can't really add to riffraff's discussion to this question below. 


 


Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?


 


In today's clip, the trumpet herald's loneliness and isolation in a way that compliments the hushed, intimate nature of the two stars' relationship. That is what jazz can do, enhance the blue mood of noir which always has at its core feelings of loneliness and isolation.


 


I am surprised that Anatomy of a Murder wasn't used as an example of the contribution of jazz to a noirish film. While made at the end of the noir cycle, as the instructor has called the late 50's, by Otto Preminger, who made one of our early films, Laura, it definitely has enough noir elements to be included in the films to be viewed in this course. Anatomy, is not only made by a German emigre with a noir under his belt, but it is scored by Duke Ellington.


 


 


Ellington is able to create a blue mood for the film. From Jimmy Stewart, a solitary bachelor lawyer who has been thrown out of office by the electorate, returning to his home from a fishing trip, to the lonely, sexpot, army wife, Lee Remick, as the femme fatale whose husband kills her rapist, Ellington always emphasizes the fact that we are all alone in the world, stuck with our fate, and forced to live it out.  This is what jazz can do for noir. It is a handmaiden of existentialism. 


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I'm no expert on jazz, but here goes.  The musical score is haunting, sounds sad, lonely, with an almost desperate yearning for something that will never be.  Here are two lovers sharing an intimate conversation.  The close cropped shots underscore that intimacy, give a sense that they are removed from the rest of the world.  But the secretiveness, furtiveness, really, lets us know this is an illicit love affair.  Then, when she says "when it's done," we realize that they are planning a murder of one or the other's spouse so that they can be "free."  Silly girl, murder never sets you free.  It just sends you, and anyone else involved, spiraling down a dark path to destruction.  And in typical femme fatale style, she's going to take him down that path with her.  Their "happily ever after" ending will never be.

 

When the camera pulls away from him, the outside of the building he's in looks almost like a cage or a prison, a portent of things to come!!  And this is another noir film in which scenes ar brightly lit except the shots immediately around the close ups.  All that darkness of heart and soul hidden in the bright light of day.....

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Wk 8 Elevator to the Gallows

 

-- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?  Without your voice, I’d be lost in a land of silence.  I don’t know how that line figures.  I just like it. The music comes in, the voices go out.  The music I guess is supposed to personify what they are saying.  Are they improvising the plans for a murder, or are they speaking words so sensual, that only music like this can make you feel what they’re feeling? The music goes out, the voices come in.  It seems they’ve firmed up the specifics of their chicanery and now are putting the finishing touches on it.

 

-- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?  Jazz uses new rhythms, goes against convention, is best listened to at night, is emotional, generally improvised.  Films noir have many of these qualities. The modern looking clock (if that’s what it is) on his desk juxtaposed with the archaic filing cabinet are an interesting combo.

 

 

Since this dose is about jazz, I will share a small part of my history: in 1976 I moved into an artist’s loft (it had the designation AIR for “Artist in Residence”) on the top floor of 58 West 31st Street in New York City, the southeast corner, a few blocks from Herald Square. I managed a cabaret, and did photography “on the side.” My bed faced north looking up Sixth Avenue, and at night, an orange-red neon sign flashed in and out through my window.  As I slept, I felt the light on my face, flashing in and out.  Alright, it flashed “Gimbels,” but we’ll leave that part out of the narrative.  Looking down onto the 31st Street side between Sixth and Broadway, I could see a traditional Chinese laundry, the kind that had wooden cubby holes where they would put the freshly laundered shirts, folded neatly into brown paper wrapping and tied with string.  In a film, perhaps gambling or something more exotic would be going on behind that wall of wooden cubbies.  On the southwest corner of Broadway and 31st was a huge building, freshly burnt-out, which, had I moved in a few months earlier, would’ve been the place I’d eat at most days: the Horn and Hardart Automat.  Bad timing!  Oh, and the cherry.  Most nights, after I came home in the wee hours of the morning, I’d get into bed, and with the neon flashing on my face, I frequently would hear the sound of a lone saxophone, playing live and perfectly, burrowing through the wall of the building next door, muffled enough to make it seem like it was in my head.  I treasure that memory, and place and time.  I had forgotten it until all this delving into the noir allowed it to waft back.

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Davis's music of this period sounds so introspective and turned inward, lonely and insular. It's music that is charting unknown territory as Davis improvises the score. I think this sound reinforces the feelings that Moreau is expressing in her telephone conversation. As much as she wants to be with Ronet, what she really wants is to be alone together. She wants to find a place where nothing exists but the two of them in love. The score reflects this impossible longing. As someone else said on this board, jazz experiments existed outside the margins of society, and without knowing the plot lines of Elevator to the Gallows, I'm pretty sure that Moreau exists outside the margins as well.

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I cannot wait to see this film especially because it's European. It will be interesting to see the similarities and differences in the approach to Noir. As far as the opening song goes, I'm afraid I cannot be very objective when it comes to Miles Davis. When Miles plays, I simply get lost and I don't want to come back... However, I have always connected Cool Jazz with Film Noir, as opposed to other Jazz genres, and this is the perfect example for that statement. How broody, mesmerising, intoxicating, melancholic this tune is, a perfect epitome of barren, barely lit, smoky streets of Noir...

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Wk 8 Elevator to the Gallows

 

-- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?  Without your voice, I’d be lost in a land of silence.  I don’t know how that line figures.  I just like it. The music comes in, the voices go out.  The music I guess is supposed to personify what they are saying.  Are they improvising the plans for a murder, or are they speaking words so sensual, that only music like this can make you feel what they’re feeling? The music goes out, the voices come in.  It seems they’ve firmed up the specifics of their chicanery and now are putting the finishing touches on it.

 

-- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?  Jazz uses new rhythms, goes against convention, is best listened to at night, is emotional, generally improvised.  Films noir have many of these qualities. The modern looking clock (if that’s what it is) on his desk juxtaposed with the archaic filing cabinet are an interesting combo.

 

 

Since this dose is about jazz, I will share a small part of my history: in 1976 I moved into an artist’s loft (it had the designation AIR for “Artist in Residence”) on the top floor of 58 West 31st Street in New York City, the southeast corner, a few blocks from Herald Square. I managed a cabaret, and did photography “on the side.” My bed faced north looking up Sixth Avenue, and at night, an orange-red neon sign flashed in and out through my window.  As I slept, I felt the light on my face, flashing in and out.  Alright, it flashed “Gimbels,” but we’ll leave that part out of the narrative.  Looking down onto the 31st Street side between Sixth and Broadway, I could see a traditional Chinese laundry, the kind that had wooden cubby holes where they would put the freshly laundered shirts, folded neatly into brown paper wrapping and tied with string.  In a film, perhaps gambling or something more exotic would be going on behind that wall of wooden cubbies.  On the southwest corner of Broadway and 31st was a huge building, freshly burnt-out, which, had I moved in a few months earlier, would’ve been the place I’d eat at most days: the Horn and Hardart Automat.  Bad timing!  Oh, and the cherry.  When I lay in bed at night, after I came home in the wee hours of the morning, I’d get into bed, and with the neon flashing on my face, I occasionally would hear the sound of a lone saxophone, playing live and perfectly, burrowing through the wall of the building next door, muffled enough to make it seem like it was in my head.  I treasure that memory, and place and time.  I had forgotten it until all this delving into the noir allowed it to waft back.

 

 

Bravo!   Your description is tre' noir, made more apropos because it's a citiscape that no longer exists.   It could serve as the opening for a noir film or story.   Gimbels, Horn & Hardart, the 'Flower District' just south of Herald Square, etc. are distant memories as long-lost as Penn Station.  And no other instrument, not even Miles' trumpet, speaks to the city at night like the saxophone.   That part of the city was a special haunt for jazz musicians in an era before live music venues abandoned Manhattan as they sadly have today. 

 

Are you familiar with The Jazz Loft Project?   From 1957-1965 W. Eugene Smith shot nearly 1,500 rolls of film...40,000 photos...and recorded over 1,700 reels (4,000 hours) of audiotapes of his building/neighborhood from his loft at 821 Sixth Ave...just a few blocks south of where it sounds like you lived.  The address was a late night haunt of some of the greatest musicians and luminaries of the period; and his photos and recordings captured many of them.      

 

Sam Stephenson discovered this treasure trove of Smith's photos and recordings in the 90's, and it's a captivating portrait of a city and an era long gone.   As a native New Yorker old enough to remember the period and the area, The Jazz Loft Project brought back lots of fond memories.    Sounds like it might have the same effect on you.     

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Louis Malle's visual design for ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS, at least in this opening sequence, stresses isolation for both characters. Maurice Ronet's Julien is seen in the window of the office building on the phone with Jeanne Moreau. But note how the camera backs away from the building's frontage and makes him that much more alone. Hinting at a forbidden relationship between the man and woman, the viewer's perception of two tormented souls is underlined by the improvisational score, starting with a high note (indicating the joy they find in one another) and the lows, stressing the seeming hopelessness of their situation. Both actors express much with their faces and Davis' music goes a long way to understanding why their professions of devotion are so tinged with sadness.

 

The clip confirms for me how French films of that period are long on mood, putting the audience in a receptive frame of mind for what is a movie but also a thought-provoking experience, such as HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR (1959).

 

Jazz was making its way into the national consciousness with scores like those composed for THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955). They served to suggest that since jazz, especially of the bluesy variety, carried with it connotations of darkly lit, smoky nightclubs, after-hours joints and coffeehouses, we were in for a noir experience.

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I usually never watch the Daily Dose more than once before I write down my impressions.  I like my notes to be absolutely my first feelings about what I have seen. There have only been a few of the Daily Doses that I have seen before.  Actually, I could count them all on one hand and still probably have a couple of fingers left. 

 

So, today I watched a second time before I decided to write anything.  I am always intrigued by foreign films (wouldn’t THAT be a great summertime course, please TCM).  I wanted to hear not only Miles Davis again but also the delicious French language again.  YUMMY on both counts. :wub: 

One thing, if someone could help me out with something.  What is the contraption with the 7 and the 4 that turns to 5?  I think it’s a clock because Julien says it’s seven o’clock, “sept heures.”  But France uses a 24-hour clock.  Is it seven o’clock in the morning?  If it were seven o’clock in the evening, I think Julien would say, “sept heures du soir”  (literally, seven o’clock in the evening).  In any case, if it is seven o'clock in the evening, I'm pretty sure the clock contraption would read 19 with a 4 turning to 5.  Of course, all these linguistic rules may just be for us foreigners.  And, needless to say, I am not the “Script~Girl” (apparently there is no French appellation for that job) for the movie.

 

I'm putting down “Elevator to the Gallows” as a must watch.  :) 

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Don't have a lot on this subject. I can say the music in the clip reminds me of Harlem Nocturne - (The Mike Hammer T.V. series theme) Both are very haunting and almost risque, much like the films we are discussing.

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-- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?

 

Miles Davis’ solitary trumpet echoes the moods of the man and woman talking on the phone.  She is isolated in a phone booth, he is isolated in his office. There is a camera shot of him at the window which then moves out to reveal the modern office building that appears to be empty except for him.  Miles Davis plays throughout this scene but stops when the camera again shows them talking on the phone, seeming to caress their phones as they speak to each other. The mood conveyed is loneliness and isolation, as these two people yearn for each other but are about to take a life in order to be together because they believe there is no other way to achieve this.  

 

-- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?

 

“Idioms” described in Lecture 2 included mood, atmosphere, energy, rhythm and beat.  I’m not well versed in jazz music so I will leave the technical discussions to others. However, the blues of the Fifties, was “outsider” music, outside the mainstream of “pop”, played mostly by black musicians for black audiences.  The fact that France picked up on it in a purer way (as opposed to Hollywood’s composers using it to further their own scores) reminds me of the Sixties when British rock bands picked up on the black blues artists (Robert Johnson, for one) and covered their songs at a time when America was ignoring its blues artists.  An example of this purity is how Louis Malle went to the airport to personally ask Miles Davis to do the score.  

 

I had to look up the story line for this movie because I’ve never heard of it.  I found Roger Ebert’s review and also read the synopsis from the TCM Viewing Guide.  I do look forward to seeing this movie, as it deserves a look. 

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Davis's jazz score, a trumpet solo played with melancholy, conveys a sense of longing and sadness. The two lovers are clearly separated, in the sense that they "shouldn't" be together. I see this in their physical separation, as well as in the camera work (it pulls back from the man in the office building window, conveying a feeling of distance and longing--a great example of how different theatrical elements, such as the music and the cinematography, come together to tell a complete story).

 

In general, jazz has a smoky, sexy, and smooth quality about it--all the trappings of a good noir. It's dark and mysterious. It's also largely improvisational, which conveys a feeling of disruption and uncertainty, not unlike the feeling the characters--and viewers--often have upon experiencing one of noir's convoluted plot twists.

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Daily Dose of Darkness #28: Pure Score

(Opening Scene from Elevator to the Gallows)

 

• In what ways does Miles Davis's score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?

The musical rhythms in this opening clip are slow and easy, making it seem like the lovers are facing no problems in their relationship. But the brief lines of the phone conversation that we hear make me wonder what they’re planning, why they feel trapped, and how they’ll be free in thirty minutes (another emphasis on time but no bank heist that I could see). The extreme close-up of Jeanne Moreau’s face doesn’t give much away, but it adds tension to an otherwise leisurely clip, with its slow pacing and its musical accompaniment. Is she the one who is doing all the planning, and of something that won’t end well?

• Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the “idioms of jazz” that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?

I enjoy jazz but know little about it so here goes. Jazz was (and I think still is) very innovative, which would have worked well with film noir because it incorporates all sorts of innovative production techniques. This brief clip doesn’t reveal all of Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet’s phone conversation. Instead we see the opening credits and hear the sensual trumpet music. Behind the credits, with the music playing (Davis’s trumpet most notably), we see each actor alone: Jeanne Moreau is in a phone booth, a confined space, with no other sound but her voice or the music, and the same is true of Maurice Ronet. He, in particular, seems isolated when we see him from outside his office windows, apparently in a high-rise building.

 

I am really looking forward to seeing this film. It was released in 1958, during the last years of the classic film noir period, and I want to see how it holds up, especially in comparison to all the American films noir that we’ve seen so far.

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Back to France! We’ve talked so much about the influences foreign films and filmmakers had on film noir that I haven’t really thought about the influence film noir had on other countries’ cinema. The fact that Elevator to the Gallows’s score was improvised amazes me. Like the others have said, the score helps create a sense of isolation, as Florence and Julien are separated from each other, and they want to be separated from the world. It compliments the quiet desperation and erotic passion they feel for each other. These two are so wrapped up in each other, so desperately in love that it seems like nothing else exists for them, and all they want is to be together. There is something about the moody coolness and somberness of jazz that compliments a film style where there are no happy endings, and the happy endings that do come about are not guaranteed to last. When I hear jazz, it makes me think of walking alone, late at night. Some of that might come from TCM’s late night intro, which was very film noir with the darkness and dinners and that reference to Night Hawks.

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The score is seductive, as is Florence on the phone with Julien. The music insinuates through the scene and underscores the alienation between the characters, who seek intimacy and freedom. Each character in the scene is trapped in a glass enclosure, and the music seems to signify an intensity of feeling between them which has grown over time, leading to a point at which they must act in order to be together.

 

There is an ominous cast to the score, as well. The dialogue, mise-en-scene, and music all together suggest Julien will be doing something he'll later regret in order to have Florence and his freedom from ordinary life.

 

The idioms of jazz mesh well with those of film noir, because (among other things) both can have a dreamlike quality, with ominous undertones.

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The opening scene of Elevator To The Gallows (1957) cuts back and forth in close-up shots of Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maruice Ronet) involved in a serious phone conversation.  The mood seems to be tense as the couple proclaim their love for one another and for the first 43 seconds the only sound we hear is the desperation in their voices until the lone shrill sound of Miles Davis' trumpet begins to underscore their solitary existence and longing to be together.  Davis' haunting score continues as the camera moves from a medium shot of Julien on the phone and as film credits roll, the camera zooms back until the frame is a long shot revealing an office building dwarfing Julien in a maze of windows and intersecting vertical and horizontal lines.  It appears clear that Florence is the one in control as she pushes Julien's emotional buttons and pulls the strings to get whatever it is she wants.  Even though the couple is exchanging words of love, the music score is telling us something different.  It's sad, it's lonely and empty, lacking the more emotional, upbeat tempo you would expect to accompany a pair of lovers exchanging affections and words of devotion.  Miles Davis' score definitely enhances Louis Malle's visuals and we know something is very wrong, very dark and something very noir is about to unfold on the screen. 

 

Side notes: I have not seen this film but from the clip I'm seeing Jeanne Moreau as a French version of Lizabeth Scott, meaning I can see her acting range go from sweet and vulnerable to wicked and hardcore in a New York second (whatever that is).  And is it just a coincidence the title is so similar to Build My Gallows High which Out of  the Past (1947) was based on?  One more note.  France used the guillotine for capital punishment right up to 1977.  So shouldn't the title have been "Elevator To The Guillotine"?        

Great synopsis and good food for thought...worthy of a feast. Speaking of changing titles.....if I  understand my research, this movie was released in the U.S. with the title Elevator to the Gallows and was released to the U.K. with the title Lift to the Scaffold. Perhaps U.S. audiences would haved balked at the guillotine.  It may have implied too gory a subject, and therefore, would have been a turnoff... American audiences were possibly more familiar with gallows such as in Westerns like the Ox Bow Incident. I do not have any other information on this and maybe someone out there might be able to contribute their expertise on this topic.  Just my thoughts.

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Great synopsis and good food for thought...worthy of a feast. Speaking of changing titles.....if I  understand my research, this movie was released in the U.S. with the title Elevator to the Gallows and was released to the U.K. with the title Lift to the Scaffold. Perhaps U.S. audiences would haved balked at the guillotine.  It may have implied too gory a subject, and therefore, would have been a turnoff... American audiences were possibly more familiar with gallows such as in Westerns like the Ox Bow Incident. I do not have any other information on this and maybe someone out there might be able to contribute their expertise on this topic.  Just my thoughts.

 

You know it never would have crossed my mind if I had not seen The Art of Love (1965) a romantic comedy with James Garner (so versatile -comedies,dramas u-name it) Dick Van Dyke (so funny) and Elke Sommer (Wow!).  Anyway James & Dick were pulling a con job in France, Garner gets framed and convicted for murder & they are just about to lead him up the steps to the guillotine before Dick Van Dyke, the supposed victim, comes forward.  I couldn't help but think, in this day & age (1965) they still use the guillotine?  Ouch!  Pardon me if I show my age but it's all about movies isn't it?       

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In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design?

 

I would lean on the layers of grey that film noir seldom allowed in the musical scores. The combination of French dialogue and film noiristic visuals along with Miles Davis' music offers layers that I have never seen before. Seems poetic and more than black and white. I feel film noir played b-movie, hard boiled, B&W, harshness which this scene does not. The angles and visuals look it but this seems a change in film noir of old.

 

Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir?

 

I'd guess that this music is an example of layers of substance film noir subject matter never provided even though all the elements were there. It's like a guy trying to describe a flower even though he's only been exposed to tractors. This seems like an example of an afterthought to add music. Perhaps the French dialogue and slow pacing adds to this but it contradicts my sense of film noir of the 40's and early 50's. It's like the French critics finally added their ideas as to how film noir should evolve.

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I'm going to have to watch this film when TCM shows it on Friday. I'm really interested in how jazz is used based on the comments people have posted here.

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