Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) | 1957
Two years before Jean-Luc Godard took to the streets to film seminal New Wave movie A Bout de Souffle, Louis Malle made his first feature, a tightly-paced noir thriller with a cool Miles Davis score, on location in Paris.
Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) plots with Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau) to kill her husband – his boss – but their scheme goes awry when a local tearaway takes Julien’s car for a murderous joyride while Julien is trapped in a lift overnight.
The office, where Tavernier commits the initial murder, is the modern block at 29-31 rue de Courcelles on the corner of Boulevard Haussmann.
The innovative camera-work of cinematographer Henri Decae has a distracted Moreau walking along the Champs Elysées at night, illuminated only by the light from shop windows – a radical departure from the usual carefully-lit studio set-ups.
The motel where the joyriders kill the German tourists was found in Normandy – in those days there were none in Paris.
They dump the car on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, the double-decker road and rail bridge just west of the Eiffel Tower. Originally the Passy Viaduct, the bridge was renamed in 1949 to commemorate the Free French Army’s battles against Rommel in the Libyan Desert in 1942 (metro: Bir-Hakeim, Passy). You’ll probably be more familiar with it from Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, or more recently, you might have watched the bridge unfold in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
The subsequent botched suicide pact at the girlfriend’s apartment is just south of the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, at 55 boulevard de Grenelle. The art nouveau building is largely unchanged, but is slightly more upmarket – and probably not home to many teenage shop assistants these days.