ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS
ASCENSEUR POUR L’ECHAFAUD
1958, Rialto Pictures, 91 min, France, Dir: Louis Malle

“I knew I loved you, but I thought only of myself,” murmurs gorgeous Jeanne Moreau - after setting in motion a murderous plot involving her fat-cat husband, a young intelligence officer (Maurice Ronet) and some of the darkest twists and turns in French cinema. Made when Malle was only 25 years old, ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS helped jump-start the French New Wave as one of the first films to represent the new young voice in French cinema. The dazzling cinematography is by Henri Decae (who also shot THE 400 BLOWS) and the sublime jazz score is by Miles Davis.


BACK TO THE WALL
LE DOS AU MUR
1958, Gaumont, 93 min, Dir: Édouard Molinaro

Before moving to comedies, director Édouard Molinaro began his career with several superb thrillers; this is his most auspicious debut. Gérard Oury is a cuckolded husband who devises an ingenious revenge against his cheating wife (Jeanne Moreau, looking just as luminous and sad-eyed as she did in ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS) only to have it backfire, setting in motion his increasingly desperate efforts at a cover-up. Molinaro revels in the use of classic noir devices (flashbacks, voiceovers) to create a unique mood in a film that’s guaranteed to scratch your “noir itch.” With Philippe Nicaud. In French with English subtitles.


CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT
aka FALSTAFF
1965, Janus Films, 115 min, Dir: Orson Welles

Writer-director Orson Welles once said of this lifelong passion project, “If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that's the one I would offer up.” Embroiled in rights issues for decades, this magnificent Shakespearean adaptation draws from five plays in the bard’s “War of the Roses” cycle. Welles stars as Sir John Falstaff, an errant knight who enjoys carousing with Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), only to be rejected by him when Hal becomes King Henry V. The mud-soaked re-creation of the Battle of Shrewsbury is one of several bravura sequences here, and the superb cast includes John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau and Fernando Rey.


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