Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Army of Shadows
Betrayal. Loyalty. Collaboration. Resistance.
Atmospheric and gripping, Army of Shadows is Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece about the French Resistance underground fighters who must grapple with their own brand of honor in their battle against Hitler’s regime.
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…
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…
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.
I've never found war films to be my favourite genre. The action scenes in every film begin to blur together over time and the screaming violence and death get somewhat tiresome with each new depiction. While I never dislike any of them, it's just something I've never related to and thus never sticks with me. Regardless of how much love this films gets, and even after I commented I'd see it, it still took months for me to sit myself down to watch. Well, thankfully, Army of Shadows is an atypical war film in the best possible way and one I can't wait to watch again.
Rather than focusing on bombs going off, widespread mayhem, and a pause in-between to…
Philippe Gerbier: "See you later, Comrade."
Legrain: "You're a communist?"
Philippe Gerbier: "No. But I can still have comrades."
Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows is without a doubt one of his most acclaimed works. It is certainly a very good film. It does have some pacing issues here and there, but it has a lot of great stuff in there too to help compensate. The camerawork is great and the performances all around are good. I really liked the ending. I did feel that there were too many characters to keep straight though. 8/10
Melville casts a spell of souls caught up during a period of relentless anguish and torment...He permeates the screen with a toned down palette of muted colors...While watching the second half each scene becomes more and more powerful and earlier actions are justified...Restrained Performances are at the core of this masterpiece.
Most WWII movies that promote themselves as "victim oriented" movies depend too much on demonizing again and again the enemy. The nazi figure is a very worn out cliche by this point, and it seems the only way we can understand the protagonists is through their opressors. Yet Melville understood that the internal moral dilemmas of those who fought, those who suffered personal tragedies, had to be portrayed without any external factor. So, while the naxis are there, they are hardly on screen, and even the torture sequences are off camera. Because sometimes the most painful injuries are internal, not external.
It's a portrait of the workings of the French Resistance during WWII, and it's extremely bleak and downbeat. Most of the members' times were spent eluding capture, getting captured, and/or getting rescued or not getting rescued. It makes the efforts feel so futile. It's very good, but it's so hopeless I don't think I'll ever want to watch it again.
It's kinda like the "Friends of Eddie Coyle" of spy flicks.
L'armée des ombres aka Army of Shadows is an account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France. It was ok, but it bored me in that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy kinda way.
There's some good stuff here but the pace was too slow for me.
One of those perfect titles that captures both the subject and tone, as well as the thematic ambiguity and murkiness of it all. Limned in shadow and shrouded in darkness, the characters that populate Army of Shadows are only more tragic for being real, which is not to say that the film uses the real-life basis as a crutch. That said, my engagement with the film is also perhaps hampered by my limited knowledge of the French Resistance.
The fractious narrative itself was both more audacious (somehow I expected the camera to adhere to largely one character), and more frustrating (for being so formless) at times. The shifting perspectives and cast of characters in some sequences left me in…
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