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…
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.
Gripping without sensational action, emotional without melodrama, this carefully paced and beautifully filmed story establishes impressive realism that can be felt.
Melville en general –lo que he visto de él– y «El ejército de las sombras» en particular forman parte de ese tipo de cine cuyo máximo exponente es «La evasión» de Becker y que clasificaría como «No me puedo creer que no te parezca una obra maestra». Desde el primer minuto hasta el último, una impagable lección de realización.
Para analizar con papel y lápiz a mano la duración de cada secuencia, el uso de los silencios, la composición de cada plano, la meticulosidad en el montaje, la maestría con que está filmada cada escena de acción/tensión... Eso sí, que tome nota otro, que para mí esto empieza y termina en un suspiro. De verdad, qué maravilla. Otra puta vez.
Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows (a devastatingly honest portrait of the WWII French Resistance movement) has the look and feel of a gently twitching body, drained of blood, in the final moments of miserable life, before the body's soul cleanly and quietly slips away into an anonymous abyss. No Spielbergian romanticism to be found here. In this seemingly straightforward, neatly-contained, nicely-plotted thriller, Melville demonstrates a world-weary depth of experience (he actually fought in the Resistance) that approaches shrieking levels of anguish.
The fighters (Simone Signoret as a tough housewife-turned-master-spy; Claude Mann as a greenhorn young fighter who's still learning the ropes; Lino Ventura as the patient, bespectacled leader) act like misanthropic androids. They risk their lives with the attitude of…
Rewatched with Criterion Collection commentary
Overall Enjoyment 7/10
The definitive film for the French Resistance fighting the Nazi's occupation during WWII. This film's strongest points are its suspense and its morally complex questions. There are some great characters based on real-life people; Mathilde and Grenbrier were both very interesting. Also, this is probably Jean-Pierre Melville's most personal film considering he himself was a member of the French Resistance.
From the inimitable opening sequence all the way to the glum last shot, this is a narrative loaded to the brim with hushed whispers, constant paranoia and betrayal. The French Resistance is not depicted as valiant crusaders of anti-Nazi justice à la Inglorious Basterds, rather the top brass are a group of solemn men and a woman, some so devoted to secrecy that their siblings may be involved and they will never know. When you live a life of cyanide tablets and mum perpetually being the word, you don’t have a lot of time to smile or laugh. You must constantly be on alert and rooting out the moles, making incredibly difficult decisions based on the code you agreed to…
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.