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

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Jazz is an expression of our souls....our thoughts and feelings are conveyed in a way words, whether written or spoken, could never do. In this opening you hear longing, yearning, loneliness, despair. Jazz, more than any other type of music, actually makes you feel what you're viewing. It enhances the whole experience since jazz has a way of being able to convey any feelings you can think of.

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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?

At first I thought they were talking through a prison phone :) Florence was so passionately promising Julien that she won't leave him that I thought he is in some real trouble. But it seems that this well-situated pair decided to leave everything behind and escape together. What a passionate romance it is... Davis' music fits perfectly to this atmosphere filled with passion and sexual tension. It slow, steamy and simply sensual.


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 really emotional. It covers and expresses all the noir feelings involved: passion, melancholy, rage, sadness, despair, madness. It's mostly improvised, unpredictable, vivid.

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Jazz, especially improvised "bop" jazz by a quintet, is a far more intimate experience than typical orchestrated film scores. It enhances the intimacy of the extreme closeups in the film's opening with the two characters expressing love for each other. Yet for all of that intimacy, they are separated and speaking on the phone. It's a great noir irony that the music enhances.

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Without your voice, I’d be lost in a land of silence.” Shortly after saying this, the jazz score begins to play over the amorous couple continuing their conversation over the phone. The prurient decadence of the score is every bit as lush and carnal as the cinematography, particularly Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet’s close-ups that are so intimate, the passion is apparent even when they are not in physical contact or even in the same scene together.  



Jazz, like film noir, is a time capsule to an age of sophistication, euphemisms, refined decorum and style. The music is provocative, sensual, exciting, yet also seems to be communicating to the alienation and suffering within the rooted depths of the soul. It all at once characterizes pain and lust while washing over them with sweeping, elevating melodies and a flood of truths; the perfect theme for an elusive, complex femme fatale and a tragic, ill-fated love affair.



I absolutely love Elevator to the Gallows and was looking forward to this daily dose. I am disappointed that the clip didn’t show a little bit more (like a minute or so) and the questions aren’t more varied, since this is one film that has great style (aside from the music), beautiful cinematography, and performances to comment on. I can’t really think of much to say on the music, as great as it is.   


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