Jean Cocteau once wrote, "true realism consists of revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing." But where do we find this "true realism?" Since our reality is blinded by our habit, daily rituals, obligations, and preconceived notions, it seems fruitless to look at our own lives to find realism, as sadly ironic as that is. Many artists have struggled with showing "the real," and how to comment on social, political, and cultural issues. What medium? Which font? During the late 1950's as France left behind the Fourth Republic and ushered in General de Gaulle's Fifth Republic, a new breed of artists emerged. These were authors, critics, and students. They were young and they were tired of the stagnancy of culture, art, and film.
[...] There is no mention of regret or remorse at killing the German couple; they seem unaware of moral judgment and are only concerned with getting caught, so instead of face the law, the young couple romanticize the Shakespearean suicide; Veronique even sounds hopeful when she declares, “We'll be together only in the headlines.” In an interview with Philip French, author of Malle on Malle, he discusses Malle's fascination with youth: didn't see childhood - as many people had done - as necessarily some period of idyllic innocence. [...]
[...] While Malle certainly collaged cultural data and artifacts with the fiction of Elevator to the Gallows, one example being that Julien is an honored war veteran; he did not rely on the use of montage that Godard so famously enjoyed. Godard wrote, “montage is the resurrection of life.” (Saxton 366). Godard used jump cuts instead of traditional narrative to describe the character of Michel; as he is driving in the stolen car, the cuts show he finds a gun in the glove compartment (much like how Louis finds Julien's), then jump to him pretending to shoot it in the rearview mirror, then an on-coming car, then the sun, until, almost inevitably, he actually fires the gun and shoots a police man. [...]
[...] However one categorizes Malle, it is clear from Elevator to the Gallows that the boundaries and conventions of filmic narration were breaking, and out of the rubble of the old cinema arose films so fresh, innovative, daring, intriguing, and sexual, that the New Wave filmmakers were no longer merely “directors,” but what Francois Truffaut termed “auteurs.” Malle came from a much higher social class than many of the French New Wave directors. His mother, whose maiden name was Beghin, gained affluence from the Beghin-Say Company, a famous sugar processing company. [...]
[...] In the beginning of the film, we see only the two lovers' faces, and as the film progresses to Florence's ride in the cop car, we now have enough information about her to focus on the face and feel her despair and confusion. As Gilles Deleuze describes this moment of tense concentration on Florence: “This is association of images being replaced by formal linkage of attitudes. The new wave, in France, has taken this cinema of attitudes and postures a long way. [...]
[...] By comparing and contrasting Malle's Elevator to the Gallows with Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, arguably one of the best, and most recognizable, films to come out of and encompass the traits of the New Wave, Malle's films are undeniably vital when discussing the auteurs that turned the cinema into something more than mere story telling, but rather, as Cocteau writes, petrified fountain of thought.” Works Cited Belton, John. Technologies.” The Oxford History of World Cinema. Ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press 483-490. [...]
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