One of France's most renowned directors, Louis Malle first gained recognition as a member of his country's New Wave movement of the 1950s. He went on to direct films of great breadth and variety, consciously avoiding the temptation to repeat himself. Many of Malle's films tended to be very personal affairs that focused on some form of societal exclusion, and on more than one occasion he rejected opportunities to work in Hollywood so as to have more time to lavish greater attention on his individual projects. His efforts paid off: By the time of his death from cancer in 1995, Malle was hailed for his invaluable contributions to both French and world cinema.
Born into great wealth, Malle had the advantages of an expensive college education, which started in the study of Political Science but ended up with filmmaking classes. A protégé of underwater photographer/director Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he received his first director's credit on Cousteau's The Silent World (1956), which served to introduce both men to the international film scene. After working as an assistant to cult-favorite director Robert Bresson, Malle made his first solo film, the award-winning Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud/Frantic (1957), a mystery-melodrama in the Diabolique mold and distinguished by an improvisational Miles Davis music score and powerful performance by Jeanne Moreau.