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Louis Malle (1932 - 1995)

Related: French cinema - director

Jeanne Moreau in
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958) - Louis Malle
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As she stalks through the night, she is a vision of tortured heartbreak, her woeful eyes and lush, sensuous lips illuminated by neon signs and baleful streetlamps.

Titles: Pretty Baby (1978) - Histoires extraordinaires (1968) - Damage (1992)


Louis Malle (October 30, 1932 - November 23, 1995) was a French film director.

Malle was born in Thumeries in northern France into a wealthy family. He initially studied political science at the Sorbonne before turning to film studies instead. He worked as an assistant to Jacques Cousteau on the documentary The Silent World (1956) and assisted Robert Bresson on A Man Escaped (1956) before making his first feature, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Frantic), in 1957.

Malle's Les Amants (1958), which like Ascenseur pour l'échafaud starred Jeanne Moreau, caused some controversy due to its sexual content. These and other early films such as Zazie dans le métro (1960, an adaptation of the Raymond Queneau novel) associated him with the nouvelle vague. Other films also tackled taboo subjects: Le feu follet (The Fire Within, 1963) centres on a man about to commit suicide, Le Souffle au coeur (1971) deals with an incestuous relationship between mother and son and Lacombe, Lucien (1974) is about French collaboration and resistance in World War II.

Malle later moved to Hollywood and continued to direct there. His later films include Atlantic City (1981), My Dinner with Andre (1981), Au revoir, les enfants (1987), Damage (1992), and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya).

Malle married the actress Candice Bergen in 1980. He died in Los Angeles. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Malle [May 2005]

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958) - Louis Malle

This 1958 Hitchcockian French suspense film stars Jeanne Moreau and is directed by Louis Malle. The score is by Miles Davis and the film belongs to the film noir category. The film is about a woman who cheats on her husband and persuades her lover to kill him. Like in Fargo, things go horribly wrong. Other comparisons to be made are The Postman Always Rings Twice (lover-husband-murder theme) and Scorsese's 1985 After Hours (its unity of time is constrained: the action takes place within 24 hours or so). The film is a celebration of fifties modernism with scenes playing in a motel, on a motorway and in a modern office building. Two cars are featured: a Cadillac and a Mercedes 300SL.

The score by Miles Davis is central to the film's effect. Critic Phil Johnson has described its soundtrack as "the loneliest trumpet sound you will ever hear, and the model for sad-core music ever since. Hear it and weep."

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