Complete list of the films Guillermo del Toro has recommended on twitter. Click the 'Read notes' button to see his…
Army of Shadows
Betrayal. Loyalty. Collaboration. Resistance.
Betrayed by an informant, Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) finds himself trapped in a torturous Nazi prison camp. Though Gerbier escapes to rejoin the Resistance in occupied Marseilles, France, and exacts his revenge on the informant, he must continue a quiet, seemingly endless battle against the Nazis in an atmosphere of tension, paranoia and distrust.
"Unhappy memories! Yet I welcome you, for you are my long lost youth.”
It's hard to feel I have anything definitive to say about so monumental a movie on first viewing. The easiest thing to point out about it is the tragedy of its historical circumstances: it was one of Melville's most personal films, as he was himself a fighter in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation in World War II, but he didn't live to see his film receive the appreciation it deserved. It was panned by the cahiers du cinema and never made it to the U.S. until 2006, at which point Melville had passed and his film had been critically re-evaluated.
The reason for its initial…
Melville conveys what it is like to live in an occupied country with a single scene.
His main character Philippe Gerbier, a renowned French Resistance organizer, is in London for a series of meetings with the British army. While he is taking a stroll in the evening the bombs start falling and the sirens scream. He quickly finds shelter in a doorway, not sure what else to do, and for the first time in the film we see that he is afraid. He tries the door behind him and finds it unlocked. He opens it, walks in, and is astounded by what he sees.
The room is filled with British army men and women, dancing, drinking, talking, having a good…
It’s been a few days since I’ve watched Melville’s Army of Shadows, and I’ve been haunted. It steals into my thoughts both waking and asleep. I keep being enveloped by a fugue of uncertainty, loneliness, and fear.
Army of Shadows defines heroism. Heroism because you know you can’t win. Heroism because you know you can’t even survive. Heroism because you don’t really have comrades to bolster your bravery and share your fear. You are alone. When you are in the trenches, a bullet can catch you at any moment, but yet you are side by side with your brothers in arms. Here the fear is the hand on your shoulder from behind. Instead of instant death, or a wound you…
An ostensibly bleak almost nihilistic air invades the space around the French Resistance as depicted by Melville. He was a member of the covert movement himself so perhaps better positioned than anyone to tell its story. Any notion of romance or satisfaction gained from their activities is not on show here. Melville tells it as an almost futile battle, like scaling a wall that just keeps on growing taller.
Life for these people seemed to exist for passing the baton when the moment was right, just before the current holder took a fall. Everyone involved knew they had limited time to make their mark. Their capture and death was an inevitability. They could only move in the shadows for so…
Melville got almost everything right here. The actors, the colour, theme, pacing and cinematography. What struck me the most is the seemless link between colour and theme. The cover is blue, as is much of the film, but most striking is a world where nothing is black or white accompanied by a grey tone. If bleak has a colour it's that mix of cold blue and grey.
It's one of these movies that you must see for yourself (and Zap won't stop shouting about it either ), and whatever words I scribble won't do it justice. That, and I've just finished watching it and a better review must wait until a rewatch. Not for the short of breath, though, as…
"It's impossible not to be afraid of dying. But I'm too stubborn, too much an animal to believe it. If I don't believe it to the very last moment, the last split second, I'll never die."
This is good. I'm talking The Godfather good. I'm talking Lawrence of Arabia good. I'm talking *insert a classic movie here* good. Everything that I heard previously about this flick was confirmed when watching it. What a movie.
Holy mackerel. Lino Ventura is a revelation. Every single goddamn frame is unforgivably stunning. Jean-Pierre Melville's unquestionable masterpiece, that's for sure.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
They all fucking die. All of the main characters fucking die... what a moving film. Army of Shadows is an astonishing piece of art that depicts the true horror of World War II and human nature. Jesus that was heavy!
3/4 and 8/10
Un Melville muy meticuloso que, sin embargo, no ha logrado cautivarme como esperaba. Es innegable el talento del francés en la puesta en escena —a Becker le gusta esto—, pero he echado en falta "alma". Yo me entiendo.
Is that a suicide pill?
Obviously this is the work of a master craftsman in Melville, but what really got me is the acting. In a world where life has never seemed so nakedly precarious, overt displays of emotion are an unnecessary and often dangerous encumbrance , so the way all of these actors underplay but still clearly portray their fear and anger and love is haunting.
This remains, in the estimation of most, Melville's most ambitious and arguably greatest achievement. Bolstered by some of the most impressive acting, brilliant editing, and melancholy environments seen in European cinema of the 1960s, this remains the height of Melville's unique brand of cinema. It doesn't have the stylistic focus of "Le Samouraï", but it more than makes up for this in its ambition and flawless execution.
An oft-unmentioned masterpiece of foreign cinema.
A great film, immaculate, even - give or take a couple of scenes. But, for me, Melville's stylized direction, lighting calculated to an inch, artificially cold color palette, and a certain emotional remove work best in his noirish crime films, like Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge. It's a personal reaction...I guess in my imagination World War 2 was a full-blooded affair, as in-your-face as anything ever got, something dripping with intense drama and tragedy.
Of course, Melville actually was a participant and I'm 2-3 generations removed, so his take on it is much more valid than mine, but I found myself admiring the workings of this film more than the events it depicts. That being said, the subtle crescendo of moral dilemmas and impossibly tough choices characters make was genuinely moving in the end. And the director's discipline in telling a story that had such personal relevance is something to behold.
Gripping without sensational action, emotional without melodrama, this carefully paced and beautifully filmed story establishes impressive realism that can be felt.
This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
Movies that are slightly off.