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…
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…
An absolute masterpiece. Jean-Pierre Melville's best movie after Le Samurai. The tracking shots are amazing. You MUST watch this film!
It's not a bad film, but the best moments without doubt are the first 25 minutes and the last 20.
For me, a lot of elements stays halfway. Above all, the rythm.
Before talking about that, I must say that in the beggining I was going to complain about the characters. So cold, so unexpressive. But shortly after I had seen the movie, I thought that all the people of the main plot were realistic in that context. I realized about all the secretism and the fear those people were living.
But, as a spectator, I expect more entertainment, in any form it would take. For example, during the first 50 minutes of Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander", nothing interesting…
A testament to hope among the damned. I really don't understand what political crap that didn't allow this masterpiece to get a wider release but it is totally brilliant. The running scene at the beginning and near the end are beyond beautiful.
I watched Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows in an overlit college lounge. While I would like to go back and see this somewhere with better lighting, I am still overwhelmed. Army of Shadows is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is an unflinching, sorrowful, angry look at the brutality of war even during one of the most clear cut conflicts in history. It is far from uplifting, but there are moments of dignity and decency that are burned into my mind alongside the horror.
Army of Shadows is, to put it bluntly, a masterwork.
Watch this movie. Watch it as soon as you can.
Absolutely phenomenal film. I haven't been this engaged by a film in a long time.
An achingly beautiful film, that made me think a lot about what it would have been like to have to make the kinds of choices these characters make.
Jean-Pierre Melville is one of my all-time favorite directors. He specialized in a uniquely French approach to the familiar American trope of the gangster film, and he did it amazingly well. He made a string of these gangster films, like Bob le flambeur and Le Samouraï, that are among my all-time favorite films period. This is not one of those films, this is something else entirely, but it’s just as visually and emotionally impressive. This film was largely ignored after its release, due to a particularly unfortunate accident of timing. It came…
It seemed to me that the message of this film was that resistance in the face of evil is virtuous regardless of the outcome. I tend to agree.
Je ne suis à priori pas fan des films historiques encore moins des films se passant pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, mais là force est de constater que ce film est absolument sensationnel. Lino Ventura en personnage Melvillien comme jamais et une ambiance pesante (cher à Melville) notamment dû à cette période de l'histoire.
Encore une fois Jean-Pierre Melville nous montre du beau cinéma avec des scènes époustouflantes (l'étranglement, la "course"…).
Le second film de la Trilogie Parfaite de Melville avec le Samourai et Le Cercle Rouge !
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