Army Of Shadows

"Essential"

Army Of Shadows Review


It's hard to imagine a cinematic culture where a monumental achievement like Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 film Army of Shadows would fall into obscurity, but then again we just recently got our eyes on Killer of Sheep. The reasons behind the withholding of Melville's unreleased French resistance epic are plentiful; they stretch from the arguable lack of commercial appeal of the film to its controversial, striking opening shot of German soldiers goosestepping down the Champs Elysees, two decades after they had actually commandeered the country. Whatever the reason, 2006 saw Rialto Distribution (which recently looked over the re-release of Alberto Lattuada's fearsome Mafioso) supervised the reappraisal of Shadows with the help of its ace cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme.

In the murky gloom of a makeshift work camp, soldiers drop off Gerbier (the immortal Lino Ventura) to be put eventually in front of the Nazi tribunal. The German occupancy of France has sent a few loyalists underground to join the resistance, calculating ways to lower the German numbers and quickly dispatching any members of the resistance that get loose-lipped. When he is brought before the Nazis, Gerbier orchestrates a breathless escape from their headquarters. From there, Melville's film becomes a stunning, globetrotting spy masterpiece, shifting from the windy desolation of north France to the burnt dystopia of Marseilles with a brief stint in London.

Melville was predominantly known as a keen director of art-house gangster flicks, hitting his stride with the chilling, sublime Le Samourai. Following that film, Shadows confirms Melville as one of the most calculating directors in his country's history, laying the groundwork for the likes of Godard and Truffaut (two indebted filmmakers to Melville's studied sense of dread).

Though technically a war film and surrounded always by a sense of action and paranoia, very little action actually exists in the film, often relying more on the whispered triangles of momentum that are set-off by Gerbier and his associates. They all endure hardships and suffer atrocities; a few are tortured, psychologically blackmailed and, in a scene of ice-cold resolve, murderers of betraying comrades.

The life of a resistance agent has only one plague, and that is the disease of distrust. In this way, Ventura creates the penultimate visage of solemn obedience. Gerbier doesn't have a family to go home to like his comrade Mathilde (the magnificent Simone Signoret) and his only friends are those who fight next to him. Melville's film spans continents, yet it seems singularly focused on this soldier of the cause. His detachment from feeling drives him to the film's ultimate heartbreak and finally, to the end of the resistance. At times wildly sprawling yet distinctly centered, private but communal, Army of Shadows finds its heart in that enigma of seeing both a country through one man's eyes and a man through his country's eyes.

Criterion's DVD extras include a commentary track pinned to the 2004 restored version of the film. A second disc includes numerous video and audio excerpts, and a 1944 documentary about the resistance.

Aka L'Armée des ombres.



Army Of Shadows

Facts and Figures

Run time: 145 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th September 1969

Box Office USA: $0.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $741.8 thousand

Distributed by: Rialto Pictures LLC.

Production compaines: Les Films Corona, Fono Roma

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Fresh: 71 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Jacques Dorfmann

Starring: Lino Ventura as Philippe Gerbier, Paul Meurisse as Luc Jardie, as Jean François Jardie, as Mathilde, Paul Crauchet as Félix Lepercq, Christian Barbier as Guillaume Vermesch « Le Bison », as Claude Ullman « Le Masque », as Paul Dounat, Alain Mottet as le Commandant du camp, Alain Decock as Legrain, Serge Reggiani as le coiffeur

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.