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…
Oh my goddamn.
This is the stuff my movie dreams are made of.
For me, Army of Shadows ranks right up there with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Lives of Others, From Russia With Love, and North by Northwest. Unlike the last two, and more like the first two, Shadows is a very realistic take on the spy thriller.
The movie was based on a book written by an ex-French Resistance man. The story is a blend of fact and fiction. We are treated to excellent performances that draw us into the gloomy rooms and hazy countrysides where the Resistance hid and planned. The quiet and stillness are crucial to the mood here. Visually, the muted colour palette and suggestive camera-work serve the same purpose. Add to those technical…
One of the best definitions of sadness and despair is the situation of being cornered to kill a magnificent person not wishing to. Even more. A magnificent friend.
One the best definition of desperation is watch unwanted beauty death.
Army of Shadows is full of this and, for me, is not a war movie but firstly a film about good things dying for nasty reasons.
A anti-nazi resistance group basically compound of free spirits and brave minds being slowly torn apart and always refusing every predictable fate.
A cold and haunting slow pace journey to grief.
Jan the 13rd, 1944.
Gerbier decided not to run this time...
An outstanding film that powerfully conveys something of what it is like for average men and women to live under a malevolent occupying force and to try, in some small way, to resist or frustrate their occupiers.
In this oppressive and terrifying world bravery, intelligence and loyalty are the only tools available against a force that is so powerful that defeat and death are the only realisitic outcome for resistors.
The scene where men who are not trained soldiers and have never killed a person before have to execute a traitor by choking him to death in silence is just incredible - more shocking than 100 deaths in an Expendables movie.
This is really an exceptional film especially since the…
‘I’m going to die, and I’m not afraid, it’s impossible not to be afraid when you’re going to die. It’s because I’m too limited, too much of an animal to believe it. But if I don’t believe it till the last moment, until the ultimate edge, I shall never die. What a discovery!’
Melville's painful crime-realism hits a peak in this French Resistance novel-adaptation
Simply one of the greatest films in the history of cinema.
Man, and I thought some of the recent le Carre adaptations have been cool to the touch.
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
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