Miles: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud


Known in English as Elevator to the Gallows, this 1958 French crime film is notable for three reasons: The movie, directed by Louis Malle, launched French new wave cinema. It stars Jeanne Moreau, one of France’s finest actresses and a personal favorite. And best of all, Miles Davis improvises throughout.

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In a nutshell, the film is about two lovers who become involved in a murder plot and are foiled when an elevator’s power is cut. The rest is too complicated to detail and the film doesn’t really hold up well. What is still remarkable is Moreau’s face, the film’s overall mood and Davis’s horn.

Here’s Miles Davis improvising to rushes of the film in 1958…

And here’s the entire film. It’s in French, which is the way I prefer it. Now that you know what the film is about, forget about what’s going on. You’ll figure it out. Or you won’t. Just dig the mood, Jeanne Moreau’s acting and Miles Davis’s trumpet…


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