“Elevator to the Gallows”

And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.


Film review: “Elevator to the Gallows” joins Bresson and Hitchcock

Louis Malle's first feature opens at Cinema 21 on Friday with the great Jeanne Moreau


It begins in classic noir fashion: urgent declarations of love cross a telephone line before Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) sets out to commit the perfect murder. At least, it might have been perfect. But having dispatched the man who is both his boss and his lover’s husband as he sat in his office, then preparing to drive away, Tavernier realizes he has left a crucial piece of evidence behind. Returning to retrieve it, he is trapped in the building’s elevator when the power is cut off for the weekend.

Tavernier’s failure to join his lover, Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau), at their assigned meeting place, propels her on a nocturnal journey through the streets of Paris, lost in her thoughts, not knowing if the crime has been committed or not. Moreau is radiant in the role, her most substantial film performance to this point, although she already had a successful stage career and a number of supporting parts behind her.

Jeanne Moreau's star turn in "Elevator to the Gallows" launched her film career.

Jeanne Moreau’s star turn in “Elevator to the Gallows” launched her film career.

There is a second lovestruck couple, romantic young flower seller Véronique (Yori Bertin) and her boyfriend Louis (Georges Poujouly), a teenage delinquent with a James Dean-sized generational chip on his shoulder. Finding Tavernier’s car outside his office with the engine on, they borrow both the vehicle and the identity of its owner. A highway race with a couple of German tourists ensues, which turns into a night of revelry and further violence. Cut off from the outside world, Tavernier is a wanted man before his actual crime is even discovered.

Louis Malle was in his mid-20s when he directed “Elevator To The Gallows” (1957), a restored print of which opens at Cinema 21 this week. It was his first feature in a long and varied career, although he had already shared an Academy Award with Jacques Cousteau for the documentary “Le Monde Du Silence” (1956). Malle himself discussed “Elevator” as an attempt to reconcile his contradictory admiration for the works of Robert Bresson and Alfred Hitchcock. It joins the deliberation and aura of loneliness of the former’s work to the suspense of the latter.