Jeanne Moreau wows in the 1958 French film, Elevator to the Gallows. This is film noir, but the au lait to this cafe noir, if you will, is Ms. Moreau.
After many twists and turns, the Paris detectives finally get everything straightened-out. But not before Jeanne Moreau wanders the nighttime streets of Paris for hours, wearing Chanel and lit only by the streetlights, storefronts, and traffic of the Champs-Elysees. Another place and another time, she goes unmolested in her dreamy state. Try that today in the major metros of the USA and you’ll probably end up on Nancy Grace. But here, director Louis Malle won acclaim for this night-time, reality-like, city-lights-only filming, and rightfully so. Through the shadows and lights we see a complex beauty-face, mature, real, sometimes breathtaking and sometimes not so pretty, but one wrought with worry, fear, anger, unfulfilled dreams and, perhaps, unrequited desires. Her character is too sophisticated, too classy, too wealthy, not to mention, too married, to be about and about like this, but there she is anyway. To paraphrase Chris Matthews, I could watch that all night long.
Give me a feature length film of Jeanne Moreau wandering, not totally aimlessly as she’s looking for her boyfriend, the dimly lit streets of Paris in couture, occasionally popping into a cafe for a cigarette, a coffee, maybe a drink, inquiring after her boyfriend, worry and desire etched agonizingly across her face, a few more dreamy walks down the Champs-Elysees, with all credit due to director Malle, and, I say, no model has ever looked that good. I don’t know, I think that might even be a better film. A sort of Richard Linklater’s Slacker or Before Sunrise meets French New Wave. Catherine Deneuve would be much too pretty for this. (Is that a thing?) And Brigitte Bardot, a bit too wild. (That’s okay, too!) But Jeanne Moreau and Louis Malle got it just right in Elevator to the Gallows. A complex, and sometimes horrible, beauty-face that rivets with the dreams and tensions within. This really took me aback. Very impressive.