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.
France, 1942, under German occupation. Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer, is a French Resistance commandant. Denounced by a French collaborator, he is interned in a concentration camp. He manages to escape, and rejoins his network in Marseille, where he has the traitor executed. This movie reveals rigorously and austerely what life was like in the French Resistance: the solitude and fear of its members; their relationships with one another; the constant threat of arrest by the Gestapo; the Resistance command structure and the way its orders were carried out. Head writer Joseph Kessel and co-writer/director Jean-Pierre Melville were both veterans of the "Shadow Army".Written by
In the sequence when Mathilde exits the car and silently waves goodbye to Gerbier, in response he rolls his window up completely, yet in the very next shot his window remains open as the car drives away. See more »
If you have any interest whatsoever in French cinema, World War II, moral ambiguity, or Simone Signoret, see this film.
Filmed in a cold, documentary-like style, the "Shadow Army" tells the intertwining stories of several members of the French resistance. The movie defies any sort of simple categorization. It is a thriller without being thrilling. It is a spy story without a single gadget. It portrays the tedium of the task without being boring. Finally, it tells a story of heroic courage without the benefit of a single hero. That last point isn't immediately evident and you are free to disagree, of course, but heroes (as defined in the usual movie terms) are hard to come by in this story.
A popular adage goes; one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. This movie serves up proof to that lie. There are true freedom fighters that will never be labeled "terrorist" and you will meet them during the course of this film. The movie makes clear that they, and the ones around them, paid a high price in pursuit of freedom. Not just in life and limb, but in moral conviction. As the movie unfolds, I found myself asking, is this action justified? The answer, of course, is that it most certainly is. The better question is would I, or anyone I know, have the courage to do what had to be done.
The technical aspects of the film are all first rate even though a bit below the best of European cinema at the time. (In some ways, the lack of high definition color and sets give it a feel much more in keeping with the time it portrays.) The actors disappear into their roles and there is not a star-turn to be found.
According to the announcement made before the screening I attended, it is being released in the United States on May 12, 2006, just before the summer blockbuster crush. Why that date and why now, almost 30 years after it was made, I do not know. My guess is it probably has something to do with money. (Doesn't it always?) Whatever the reasons, skip the Tom Cruise vehicle and don't miss the opportunity to see it.
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