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 »
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 »
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 »
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
For the shot depicting German soldiers marching down the Champs Elysees, Jean-Pierre Melville thought that it would be impossible to get regular Frenchmen to provide the proper marching movements. He ended up casting dancers to correctly provide the march steps he wanted from the soldiers. This shot was originally the last in the film and prints were sent to theaters with it in that place. After the first showings, Melville decided the scene was better placed at the start of the film and it was physically spliced into the new position. This apparently resulted in several missing frames in the negative. These frames were restored from another source when the 2005 digital restoration was accomplished. See more »
In the London WWII sequence, we see double yellow lines on the road. These were only introduced in the UK in 1956 and didn't become common until the 1960s. Same goes for a couple of the street signs, of a style not known before the 1960s. See more »
Jean-Pierre Melville's "Army of Shadows" is a sombre film about the French Resistance during WWII. It's yet one more movie that makes me feel like I have a terrible grasp of history, as I knew virtually nothing about the movement before seeing this. Melville himself was a member of the Resistance, so I can only assume that his film is fairly accurate. It's powerful, but not obviously so. It doesn't inspire tremendous reactions or emotions while viewing it, but it gets in your head and stays there.
The film is lacking any of that championing of the underdog spirit that infuses so many other stories about scrappy groups resisting the tyranny of the powerful. The members of the French Resistance in this film live like unearthly beings, skittering from one shadowy doorway to another, trying to erase any sign of themselves. The movie suggests that this need for non-existence bleeds into their psychology as well -- the film's main character becomes nearly inhuman in his devotion to the cause and his ability to ruthlessly do away with colleagues when there's a chance that one of them might jeopardize the others. He's not inhuman, but he must do inhuman things, because the desperation of his and his comrades' situations calls for it.
The Criterion Collection's print of the film looks terrific, or at least as terrific as the film's dreary pallet of grey and brown will allow. Melville gives the film an authentic look -- only some scenes set in the London blitz and on an aircraft carrier have a studio set look to them.
A shot of the Arc di Triomphe both opens and closes the film: a symbol of the France that would eventually emerge from the dark days of WWII, or an ironic jab at a country that can't take much credit for fighting off the tyranny of fascism?
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