Bob, an old gangster and gambler is almost broke, so he decides in spite of the warnings of a friend, a high official from the police, to rob a gambling casino in Dauville. Everything is ... See full summary »
Burglar Maurice Faugel has just finished his sentence. He murders Gilbert Vanovre, a receiver, and steals the loot of a break-in. He is also preparing a house-breaking, and his friend ... See full summary »
Gustave Minda, better known as Gu, a dangerous gangster, escapes from jail. He goes to Paris to join Manouche and other friends, and get involved in a gangland killing. Before leaving the ... See full summary »
Bank robbery in small town ends with one of the robbers being wounded. The loot from the robbery is just an asset for the even more spectacular heist. Simon, gang leader and Paris night ... See full summary »
1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... See full summary »
A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women.
In a snowball fight between schoolboys the handsome Dargelos hits the chest of Paul, who drops unconscious to the ground. Paul has a deep affection for Dargelos, and later denies that there... See full summary »
Captured French Resistance fighter Andre Devigny awaits a certain death sentence for espionage in a stark Nazi prison. Facing malnourishment and paralyzing fear, he must engineer an ... See full summary »
Charles Le Clainche,
France, 1942, during the occupation. Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer, is one of the French Resistance's chiefs. Given away by a traitor, he is interned in a camp. He manages to escape, and joins his network at Marseilles, where he makes the traitor be executed... This non-spectacular movie (do not expect any Rambo or Robin Hood) shows us rigorously and austerely the everyday of the French Resistants : their solitude, their fears, their relationships, the arrests, the forwarding of orders and their carrying out... Both writer Joseph Kessel and co-writer and director Jean-Pierre Melville belonged to this "Army in the Shadows". Written by
aside from his later crime films, this is Melville at his best, and usual challenging self
Jean Pierre Melville, writer/director of Army of Shadows, has said in interviews that the book of which he based his movie from is considered THE book on the French resistance in the second world war. While I can only speculate as to this film being THE film of its category, as I've yet to see other films on the resistance, it sets quite a high standard for painting a very calculated, perfectly cool (or cold on your POV) piece of film-making on the subject.
It's basically as if Melville, having lived through the period- this being perhaps an even more personal film than his other crime films- still takes on some of the true knacks of what he does in the rest of his oeuvre. Taking characters who go by codes of loyalty, professional as can be, and in a true underground in society. However this time their opponent being the Germans instead of the police the stakes are raised. Even as a couple of parts in the middle seem to shake with the deliberate pace Melville sets a couple of times, the main core of the story and the characters is remarkable, and honest in a dark, bleak way.
Lino Ventura is at his best as Gerbier, a main man in the French resistance movement, who gets more involved in the proceedings following a brief prison-camp stint (the escape from which is one of the most daring in any film). The film is fairly episodic, however encompassing a group of the resistance people, including Mathilde (Simon Signet, very good as always), Le Masque (Claude Mann), and Jean-Francois (Jean-Pierre Cassel, at a peak as well in his own way).
Some of their operations are simple, like retrieving weapons or finding more support through certain channels. Though here and there some payback is in due to the traitors. This becomes a higher issue as the film rolls into its final act, as alliances come into question, and the real ties of humanity together are tested in the midst of the German occupation.
As usual with Melville all of this is told, in its own way, fairly simply- almost clinically- by Melville's camera. There are some zooms here and there, some very intense camera positions (though not awkwardly), and exciting when need be. At the same time, there are some scenes like a short scene on a beach (all blue) or a few others at night or in different lighting modes that are the best Melville's done in the midst of a color scheme used perfectly to correspond with the mood; it works just as well if not better than how he uses it for his crime films.
But one of the pleasures of seeing a film like this by a real kind of maverick of European cinema is seeing how much room he gives for his actors. These are not performances that become over-sensational in the slightest. On the contrary, what adds sometimes to the tension in some of the scenes, or the outright tragedy, is how the actors just play as they do professional-wise, sometimes with what's not said meaning more (and how the Melville gets these quiet moments is fantastic). Featuring a superlative musical accompaniment by Eric De Marsan, this is one of the best directed anti-war films ever made.
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