By Mavrokefalou Caterina
The “playful French”, a characterization, which is not due solely to the subject matter of Malle’s films, such as Zaziedans le metro (1960), Pretty Baby (1970), where the main protagonists are children, but mainly due to the way of development of these narratives. Besides, if we observe closely his children stories- although his filmography is by no means confined to these- we shall quickly realize that these are not mere tales of the adventures of a girl in Paris as in Zaziedans le metro (1960) or of a mischievous teenager in Murmur of the heart (1971), but building on childlike innocence and the simplicity of the youthful soul Malle succeeds in highlighting the most complex and intimate situations and feelings that exist in the tangled world of adults, as this is mirrored on the clear and excitable eyes of the children.
Despite the fact that the French director was not a particular representative of the Nouvelle Vague movement during its era, although as we can observe in his 1963 work, The fire within, he embraces many of its principles; both technical and ideological, he did not remain completely faithful to these but adapted them to his own cinematic style while retaining the basic idea of the auteur (author), as it was first formulated by the Cahiers du cinema, namely the disengagement from the flimsy and anachronistic French cinema, and the idea of emphasizing the grandeur of movement and film editing while at the same time driving the subject away from the grandiose of the storyline and driving it towards a more realistic path.
Besides, as atmospheric and fairytale-like as his films may be, it would be impossible not to classify him among the fans and followers of the movement of realism, since his films recount problems and passions between sexual partners and family members. This is evident even from his very first steps, with the quirky noir, Elevator to the Gallows (1958), which introduces us to Jeanne Moreau, her lover and their crime of passion in the background set of a dark elevator and featuring the equally atmospheric soundtrack of Miles Davis, to how a painful reality can be akin to a dream, intensifying the emotional element. Of course, it would suffice to look at his very first work, The silent world (1956), where working with Jacque Cousteau, they filmed a documentary presenting us with the quiet and yet particularly interesting marine world, escaping from documentary clichés and creating a photo album with live images, that if anything allure us to the depths, and to all of Malle’s subsequent films. These are the films of a man whose works beautify the crude human nature through the pure and dreamy lens of his camera.