Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
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.
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…
Bleak and brilliant. These French Resistance members are battling for freedom in a region of France that's already dominated by Nazi regime. Yet they keep trying, reminiscent of Sisyphus and his boulder that is just going to tumble back down. Beautiful blue lighting and atmosphere and mostly empty shots with cinematography that speaks for itself. A harrowing watch that remains with you for days after, not because of anything visually, but the existentialism and the effort for survival that these characters undergo.
This deceptively episodic film about the underground French resistance in the 40's is so admirably bleak and unromantic it becomes almost oppressive. While it venerates the apparent loss of humanity it takes to dedicate one's self to a higher cause, it makes no bones about displaying what even the most moral of zealotry can do to someone.
Interestingly, the disjointed narrative undermines Melville's main strength of ratcheting up tension. While still a well-plotted film, without a strong emotional throughline a lot of the more thrilling moments seem slightly deflated. Despite this, the movie still focuses on details that provide some great overall color (one moment where the resistance leader played by Lino Ventura affixes his eyeglasses to his face during a skydive via band-aids is both reasonably practical and chuckleworthy).
All-in-all, definitely worth a watch... although Melville's tighter genre fare just does a little bit more for me.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
프랑스 레지스탕스를 그린 영화 -
독일군의 기지 폭파나 주요 인사에 대한 테러는 전혀 나오지 않는 매우 특이한 레지스탕스 무비.
나찌와의 투쟁에 촛점을 맞춘게 아니라 조직내 갈등을 잘 나타냈다.
조직을 지키기 위해 어린 청년이나 오랜 세월 함께 해온 여비서를 죽여야만 하는 어둠의 군대.
멜빌의 자전적 경험을 토대로 만들어 졌다는데 어떤 이는 그의 레지스탕스 경력이 과장됐거나 심지어 날조 됐다고 한다. 글쎄.
갱영화를 주로 만든 그가 남긴 아주 보배스러운 2차대전 기록영화라 애정이 간다.
Being my second Melville film, it got my attention due to the WWII theme and since it has a place in Ebert's Great Movies list, I decided to pick it up to the first round of the Season Challenge.
To be honest, I found myself bored from time to time while watching it, expecting something more ritmic, since my previous Melville experience was Le Samourai.
But actually thinking about it, this isn't a WWII movie like I'm used to and the slow pace makes sense. We're supposed to feel the despair and slowness this group of people have in their lives, trying to get back the most human of the human conditions, freedom, while knowing that at anytime, they could be dead.
Gonna rewatch it, in a while, I guess. And I'll definitly pick up some more Jean-Pierre Melville.
Where have I been?
This is by all means a tense and realistic portrait of the French Resistance, with excellent subdued color cinematography. However, I felt that the film was ultimately numb, too unrelentingly grim, so that there are no true shocks or surprising events. In addition, the characters and plot felt too thinly sketched and abstruse to truly elicit sympathy. A film I must revisit.
It's hard out here for freedom fighter.
So you know how in every action movie ever there's an important character who stands behind a bus or train, and then when said bus/train has passed the character has magically disappeared? Army of Shadows has that, but instead of disappearing the character just waits for the train to pass and proceeds to walk across the street. That's the movie in a nutshell, and it is incredible.
Undoubtedly an espionage film, what with the fluid/frequent camera movements and wartime setting, but with 100% more standing around and talking and 90% less swashbuckling. Melville commits so strongly to the gorgeous aesthetic of classic war movies that it makes the highly subversive slow-build narrative that much more compelling. This is resistance as it truly is: a life of scheming and waiting puncuated by brief moments of agonizing violence. The shots that bookend the movie are on a Herzogian level of awe and despair.
I started to really get into Melville's films a few years back, so I'm constantly trying to check in on his filmography (even though I had this one from Netflix for almost four months). This is yet another film that features all the elements that I like about his movies, and some of which I don't. For instance, I adore the way his scenes are put together. There's always a simplicity to the frame but it also embodies so much that it says about the characters and themes. At the same time, I feel like the story in this one is so engulfed by the quasi-espionage setting that I often found myself losing the larger details and struggling to make…
So in awe of how perfectly choreographed some of these scenes were (specifically the one with the throat stabbing...leaving out contextual details here as to no spoil it). So many great set ups and escape routes, narratively and conceptually. The weight of sacrifice is heavy throughout. It really weighs on you, as it should.
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