Clare's Criterion Collection

Here Is My Criterion Collection. See What I Have Bought & Read My Reviews. Follow Me As I Explore My Collection.

Review # 20 – Elevator To The Gallows

Elevator to The Gallows

Spine #335

Available on DVD


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New interview with actor Jeanne Moreau
  • Archival interviews with director Louis Malle, actors Maurice Ronet and Moreau, and original soundtrack session pianist René Urtreger
  • Footage of Miles Davis and Louis Malle from the soundtrack recording session
  • New video program about the score with jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis and critic Gary Giddins
  • Malle’s student film Crazeologie, featuring the title song by Charlie Parker
  • Theatrical trailers
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Terrence Rafferty, an interview with Louis Malle, and a tribute by film producer Vincent Malle

    New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

The first thing to mention about this film is the score by Miles Davis. If you love jazz then this is something I would highly recommend for you. I will give you a little idea of what is in store with this YouTube link. The best thing to do here, to avoid spoilers, is press play then minimise the screen so that you don’t see the film.

Onto the film itself and we become involved with an adulteress couple Julien and Florence

❤ “Je t’aime je t’aime” ❤

This declaration of love is breathlessly spoken as they finalise their plan. The man in their way is a ruthless businessman who makes money off the back of misery to others.

“Have respect for war; it is your family heirloom”

Sadly this comment that still rings true with a lot of people today (this film is from the 60’s). War and killing is big business and there is always someone wanting to profit. This reminded of a play I watched last year, to see what that was please click here

Sorry for the sidetrack 🙂 There is another couple key to the storyline and I will say from the start, I found them to be annoying; a scatterbrain girl and moody boyfriend. Whilst they are an important component in regards to how incidents occur and play out, their juvenile behaviour and presence irked me. They take Julien’s car for a joyride and their fateful roadtrip begins.

Anyway, back to Julien. Have you ever found yourself trapped in a lift? Poor Julien has and it happened at a most unfortunate time. He is left to try and escape whilst Florence, his partner in crime, walks the streets of Paris desperately looking for him. The stolen car drives past and she mistakes the “scatterbrain” and her boyfriend for Julien and another woman. This “sighting” has repercussions after an early morning round up by the police, it seems it was once illegal and maybe still is, to be out and about in Paris during the small hours without your ID.

This film highlights another pet peeve of mine, law enforcement incompetence. An Assistant District Attorney prances around the room showing off to journalists by sprouting half-truths, hearsay and fitting circumstance to his theory. Thankfully (unless you are Julien & Florence) there are some people with a badge who know what they are doing and so the hunt (and power to the elevator) is on. The morning paper brings about a comical moment in the café, though the little girl needs to learn how to keep her cool and her mouth shut 🙂 The sirens blare and the net catches it’s prey.

Without revealing too much about what happens next my final note is to say this, if you are going to cheat and plot murder don’t leave your camera lying around, photos don’t lie 😉

My final thoughts on Elevator To The Gallows, in all honesty after my first watch I was a little deflated. My hopes had been high for this one, the first feature film of French director Louis Malle (I highly recommend Au Revoir Les Enfants). It was only after another watch, along with the Criterion Extras, whilst writing this post, did I develop more of an appreciation. Please bear this in mind when you watch, it may take more than one viewing.


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Review # 18 – L’Enfance Nue

L'enfance neu

Spine # 534

Available on DVD

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • L’amour existe, director Maurice Pialat’s poetic 1960 short film about life on the outskirts of Paris
  • Autour de “L’enfance nue,” a fifty-minute documentary shot just after the film’s release
  • Excerpts from a 1973 French television interview with Pialat
  • New visual essay by critic Kent Jones on the film and Pialat’s cinematic style
  • Video interview with Pialat collaborators Arlette Langmann and Patrick Grandperret
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Phillip LopateNew cover by Steve Chow

The next Criterion for me to watch was my choice of Rota. I always have a few titles to pick from and the winner was this offering from Maurice Pialat.

In an ideal world every child born would be wanted and loved, would be cared for and given every opportunity to fulfil their life to the fullest. Sadly this is very far from reality for many. For them growing up is one constant battle. Love, stability, warmth and even friendship can be hard to come by when you are one of the thousands of children growing up in Foster care.

Our friend in this film is François; he is 10 years old and has very little in the way of a happy childhood. After being abandoned by his Mother; he has come to live with a still relatively young couple and their biological Daughter. As with many children in his situation, he is troubled and not easy to handle. Sadly this turns deadly and once again he is on the move but not before showing a side of him that we will come to see more of later.

“You get used to it”

Those are not the words of François but the social worker taking a group of abandoned children to the city, a seemingly never-ending flow of children needing a home that is sadly still relevant today (the film was made in 1968)

Thankfully an older couple, played by real-life Foster parents René and Marie-Louise Thierry (this film was based around their personal experience with a young boy called Didier), offer him stability and the chance to grow. “Grandpa” shows him his service medals, “Nana” sings for him and two other children in the house give François siblings to enjoy. This includes play fighting and reading comics, normal children activities. The extended family is introduced into his life when he attends a family wedding. More singing and dancing is enjoyed as the Relatives embrace François, even telling him “You’re a nice boy”

Trouble is not far away but thanks to the hard work, attention and love given to him there will be a positive ending but maybe not the one you are thinking of right now. For me this part of the film shows that if children are given the chance to face the consequences of their actions then they can learn, not only how to behave in society but how to respect it. More programs are needed where children can repay for their mistakes by benefiting those within their community and maybe give them a sense of belonging. I feel that is all François ever wanted, to belong. I really hope he found it in Nana and Grandpa.

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Review # 17 – The Fire Within

The Fire Within

Spine # 430

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Archival interviews with director Louis Malle and actor Maurice Ronet
  • Malle’s Fire Within, a new video program featuring interviews with actor Alexandra Stewart and filmmakers Philippe Collin and Volker Schlöndorff
  • Jusqu’au 23 Juillet, a 2005 documentary short about the film and its source novel Le feu follet, by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, featuring actor Mathieu Amalric, writer Didier Daeninckx, and Cannes festival curator Pierre-Henri Deleau
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by critic Michel Ciment and film historian Peter CowieNew cover by Rodrigo Corral

Every fortnight the Members of my online film club pick the film they wish to screen for everyone else. One recent choice was this film by Louis Malle called The Fire Within.  I will admit that this review has taken me a long time to write, I have actually watched the film twice due to complex nature. I found the 2nd viewing to be very helpful in understanding more about our main character, Alain.

We meet Alain in bed with Lydia, a friend of both him and his Wife Dorothy, who lives in New York. Thus our day starts; the day Alain plans to be his last. Our role in this film is to watch the rather bleak but equally powerful actions; thoughts and inner turmoil of someone who wants to commit suicide, hopefully empathise and try to understand why.

Alain is a resident at a rather grand and fancy looking clinic. He is an alcoholic and suffers from depression. People tell him, and he believes himself, that he is cured. If he is cured then why does he stay there? His own reasoning is “I like it there”. Life at the clinic provides order, it is simple and he has shelter. He needs this as “everything scares me”, and he describes himself as a “coward”.

The vast majority of the day takes place in Paris as Alain catches up with old friends and lovers.   Their words and actions were quite unsettling and as the film progressed I began to ask the same questions over and over.

Does he actually like any of his friends?

Why do they let him drink?

Whenever he leaves, comments such as “poor boy” and “he looks ill” reverberate from one person to the next. Their patronising manner is quite sickening to be honest. Their friend is highly anxious, always doubting himself as to why he does not want to leave the clinic and start to live his life again as a everyday person yet they offer no genuine help.  A comment to his Doctor “life is good” is heartfelt and equally sad.

This film throws up many questions about mental illness, addiction, suicide and other aspects of life that, to another on the outside, can seem to be trivial.  There is never an easy “one size fits all” answer when faced with any of  these situations.  When they are all mixed together you have The Fire Within, how that fire burns, is personal.

EDIT – I forgot to mention the music and cinematography during this film.  Lovely piano music perfectly accompanied the film, not too harsh, just right.  The scenes of Paris were equally perfect, the park, the pavement cafe and the grand buildings, they all fitted with the theme of the story.

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