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
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #385. See more »
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 »
Claude Ullmann dit 'Le Masque':
Still thinking about the others?
[referring to the resistance fighters, who, like him, were targets in the German shooting gallery]
No, I was thinking of the officer who was sure I'd run too. Like a scared rabbit...
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Never before (and after) a movie on French Resistance has been so "glamourless". Jean-Pierre Melville has been hailed as the father of the French gangster film. Certainly, his gangster films are probably the films for which he is best known (Le Doulos, Deuxieme Soufflé, Le Samourai, Le cercle rouge, Bob le flambeur) on par if not better than anything which Hollywood produced. Yet the world of the anonymous gun-toting hoodlum occupies only a part of his oeuvre.
'L'armee des ombres' (aka The Shadow Army) is Jean Pierre Melville 1969 masterpiece and does not deal with gangsters. The film is a mix of the director's war time experiences in the French Resistance and Joseph Kessel successful wartime novel. What is remarkable about this film is that Melville turned a mosaic of anecdotes that Kessel's novel is all about into a great, dark epic.
From the chilling opening shot of Germans marching down the Champs-Elysées to the final scene involving the fellow Resistant Mathilde (the great Simone Signoret) the film seems to demonstrate that fighting for an ideal often leads towards death and solitude. What Melville does successfully is to show those dead-ends the way they occur to their protagonist (very simply and minimalist), however more than showing them Mr. Melville managed to make these realities (death and solitude) an equally tragic experienced for the audience...
'L'armee des ombres' is Melville's most moving film, a monument to the spirit of the Resistance rather than its actuality. A poignant drama with a strong performance from not only Lino Ventura but also Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse, Jean Pierre Cassel, Claude Mann, Paul Crauchet to name a few.
This is probably Melville's greatest cinematographic achievement and, when fiction becomes reality, when actors leave behind their egos to resurrect into heroes, when the colors of the film mirror the one of the soul and when silence becomes music, true cinema has been achieved 'L'armee des ombres' is a terrible yet powerful experience in which the words duty, courage, abnegation get charged with meaning
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