Monday, July 31, 2017

Moreau and Miles

The passing of Jeanne Moreau at the age of eighty-nine reminds me how important the film by Louis Malle, Ascenseur a l'Échafaud, was for me back in the day, when I was working at the Fine ArtsTheatre in Dallas. Introducing new narrative and editing techniques, the film is considered an important work in establishing the Nouvelle Vague. I wonder how often I watched it spellbound. Its score by Miles Davis, and the relationship the film establishes between music, image and emotion, were also considered ground-breaking.The musical cues for the film were released as a ten-inch LP album in 1958. Jean-Paul Rappeneau, a jazz fan and Malle's assistant at the time, suggested asking Miles Davis to create the film's soundtrack, possibly inspired by the Modern Jazz Quartet's recording for Roger Vadim's Sait-on jamais  released a few months earlier in 1957. Wiki confirms what Rappeneau told us when I met him in Budapest. There in 1990 his lavish Franco-Hungarian production Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gérard Depardieu, entered the record books as one of the most expensive French films ever produced. My sorely missed friend André Szöts handled the Budapest end of the project. 

At the time of recording the Elevator to the Scaffold score Miles was playing at the Club Saint-Germain on rue Saint-Benoît, premises which later housed the supper club le Bilboquet. And it was there that in 1968 we filmed a segment of our documentary Filmcentre Europe.

I never met Jeanne Moreau although I almost met Miles Davis,  but that's another story. I'd still be spellbound watching the very first of Louis Malle's twenty feature films.

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