Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
I spent most of the day watching movies with a friend of mine. Prior to this one, we streamed Big Trouble in Little China and Super Troopers. Typically, I would have created a diary entry for those, too, but I dozed intermittently and even though I've seen them both several times before, I don't really have anything to say about them this time. As a rule, I prefer to watch movies at nighttime, when it's dark outside and the world is quiet. This turned out to be a perfect daytime movie choice, however, especially for this friend and I to share on that particular day. We needed some levity, and Elevator to the Gallows provided it.
I've only gotten my toes wet regarding the French New Wave, but so far I've enjoyed what little I've seen from it. This was my first Louis Malle film. As it turns out, it was also Louis Malle's first Louis Malle film so there's that. (Not gonna lie; finding out he was twelve years younger than me when he made it kind of irked me.)
In a lot of respects, this one reminded me of Breathless; a whole lot of things go wrong, but there's such a breeziness throughout the picture that imbues the narrative with a sort of twisted whimsy that belies the seriousness of its events.
Poor Julien. Poor, poor Julien. Dude started off doing so well within just a few minutes of the movie starting, only for it to go oh so horribly awry. Do we sympathize with an ice cold murderer? Maybe, maybe not. But we easily sympathize with a guy having a bad day and man, Julien's day sucks.
As we watched what Louis and Véronique got themselves into, I didn't so much care about either of them but I felt badly for Julien knowing that he was entirely oblivious to the kind of trouble they were creating for him.
[Aside: I apologize to my friend, because typically I'm silent while watching a movie for the first time but for whatever reason, my "Oh, that can't end well"-type reactions were entirely reflexive. I hope I wasn't too disruptive!]
As the opening credits played, my friend and I both remarked about Miles Davis being its composer. The music he created for Elevator to the Gallows is my favorite score in quite awhile. It's delightful - even when it feels inappropriate for it to be, which contributes to the cringe-inducing unfolding of the story. When the movie finished streaming, we watched the Criterion supplement, "Miles Goes Modal". Learning that Davis improvised the music while watching the film in the recording studio just made him - and the movie, really - that much cooler. Hell, I felt a little bit cooler just for having heard it and now being able to talk about it!
I typically write these diary entries as close to the viewing as possible, but an entire week has now passed between watching it and writing about it. It wasn't because I had to process anything, which I know is how some people approach these things. I just had an exhausting week, coming out of a six-week Crohn's flare and right into a series of things to do. Aside from the segments of Big Trouble and Super Troopers I was awake for, Elevator to the Gallows is the first movie I've watched in a month. It felt nice to do that again.
Ordinarily, I prefer to delve into as many supplements as I can when it comes to Criterion releases, including reading any and all essays published on their website, but for now I'm content with just having seen the movie and the Miles Davis piece. I would very much like to go back to this one later and explore it further. Perhaps in September, during the annual DVD Talk Criterion Challenge?
How Elevator to the Gallows Entered My Flickchart
Elevator to the Gallows > MGM: When the Lion Roars → #839
Elevator to the Gallows < Torment → #839
Elevator to the Gallows > This Charming Man → #629
Elevator to the Gallows> Spider-Man → #524
Elevator to the Gallows > M*A*S*H → #472
Elevator to the Gallows > Face/Off → #445
Elevator to the Gallows > Muppet Treasure Island → #432
Elevator to the Gallows > Planet of the Apes (2001) → #426
Elevator to the Gallows < After the Sunset → #426
Elevator to the Gallows > Anjelah Johnson: That's How We Do It! → #423
Elevator to the Gallows entered my Flickchart at #423/1678