Malle. Malle made 12 archiveable films and they’re all directed with ambition and intelligence. Malle is here because of that (12 archiveable films this far down at #125 is a clear strength) and he has two films in the top 500 films of all-time. Almost all of the other directors with 2+ films in the top 500 have been named already. The reason Malle has fallen this far down the list may, largely, have to do with his #1 (Elevator to the Gallows) and #2 film (My Dinner With Andre) having so little in common visually and stylistically. They could be made by other people—that’s the main weakness for Malle’s case here.
Best film: Elevator to the Gallows. Jeanne Moreau’s face as your blank canvas and Miles Davis doing your score were both brilliant decisions by Malle. Elevator has an enthralling narrative- bridging the gap between 1950’s French heist film, film noir, Hitchcock and the French New Wave.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (Elevator to the Gallows, My Dinner With Andre)
top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Elevator to the Gallows, My Dinner With Andre, The Fire Within)
most overrated: Au revoir les enfants is Malle’s top rated film on the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and I have it as his 7th best film. That’s a big disconnect. I’ve only seen it once so it warrants a rewatch soon.
most underrated: A couple of options here. Elevator to the Gallows is my #318 and the consensus has it way down at #957 (TSPDT only has this and Au revoir les enfants in the top 1000—and that one falls at #853 right now). I may have to go with My Dinner with Andre though. This is in my top 500 (#459) and can’t land a spot in the top 1000 for the TSPDT consensus. It is a talker—I get it—but My Dinner With Andre was maybe THE talker until Linklater’s Before trilogy came along. It is an utterly captivating, unique film (lets film an engaging dinner conversation) featuring a simple (but not) dinner between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory.
gem I want to spotlight: The Lovers is handsome and has a lot in common with The Fire Within. Some of the imagery here is very Varda/Bergman-esque with framing/blocking of faces.
stylistic innovations/traits: As I mention at the opening up top Elevator to the Gallows and My Dinner With Andre really don’t mesh as an auteur’s #1 and #2 films. My Dinner With Andre is utterly uncinematic and Elevator to the Gallows is the opposite– very atmospheric. They’re decades apart, one in black and white, one in English, one is just talking and the other plotted… however, other films in his oeuvre do have a lot in common with each other like The Lovers and The Fire Within – many intimate close-ups and creative framing and angles. There may be more here as well. I’ve seen like 15 Malle films but never in a clustered study. Seeing seemingly very different works at different times over a 20-year period makes it tough.
- Elevator to the Gallows
- My Dinner With Andre
- The Fire Within
- Murmur of the Heart
- Lacombe, Lucien
- Atlantic City
- Au Revior Les Enfantes
- The Lovers
- Zazie dans le Métro
- Pretty Baby
By year and grades
|1957- Elevator to the Gallows||MS|
|1958- The Lovers||R|
|1960- Zazie dans Le Métro||R|
|1963- The Fire Within||HR|
|1971- Murmur of the Heart||HR|
|1974- Lacombe, Lucien||R/HR|
|1978- Pretty Baby||R|
|1980- Atlantic City||R|
|1981- My Dinner with Andre||MS|
|1987- Au Revior Les Enfantes||R|
|1990- May Fools|
|1994- Vanya on 42nd Street||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives