Normally what transpires is you watch a movie, fall in love with its music and then you purchase the soundtrack album. Recently it worked in the reverse. I first fell in love with the album and subsequently found out it was a soundtrack for a movie, it turned out that the score was especially composed by Miles Davis for the film Lift to the Scaffold (1958). This composition was described by the Independents jazz critic Phil Johnson as “the loneliest trumpet sound you will ever hear and the model for sad-core music ever since” I would add to that statement that Davis’s score is the most perfectly matched soundtrack you will ever have the privilege to hear. Without it the film could not possibly evoke such atmospherics and mood, witness Jeanne Moreau rain lashed walk down the Champs-Elysees, one of the most memorable moments in this black and white film.
Known in America as Elevator to the Gallows and in France as Ascenseur pour I’echafaud, which incidentally is the name of the album. It was 24 year-old Louis Malle first feature film, the versatile French director who went on to make such contrasting films as Viva Maria (1965) Alamo Bay (1985) and Au revoir, les enfants (1987). The film is said to be one of the first film’s of the French New Wave, an avant-garde film movement that lasted until 1963 and like it’s counter part in Britain is still a very influential style of film making to this day, making use of minimal budgets by using small crew’s, shooting on location, and improvised techniques with hand held camera’s. With minimal and random dialogue Lift to the Scaffold fits the bill splendidly. This stylish film noir stars the afore mentioned Ms Moreau as Florence Carala and Maurice Ronet as Julian Tavernier as a pair of illicit lovers who conspire to murder Florence husband by making it look like he had committed suicide. As you would expect from this kind of drama things don’t always go to plan. A very cool French movie with Jeanne Moreau at her sensual best.