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.
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…
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…
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…
After loving Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai it didn't take me very long before I got around to his 1969 thriller Army of Shadows. In this film Melville has applied his minimalist approach to a political-thriller about the French resistance during World War II. Not many directors would be able to keep themselves from making an unrealistic, but brutal film about the French getting their well-deserved revenge on the Nazi's. Melville however, who was himself a part of the resistance has created a semi-factual and realistic portrayal of the French resistance based on Joseph Kessel's book by the same name. The film starts with Philippe Gerbier being imprisoned in a camp that the French built for German prisoners, which is now…
A brilliant film about morality, patriotism, the French Resistance and so much more.
The Resistance live in the shadows, they are shadows. Every day is tense and filled with fear, their lives are risked seven days a week.
Poignant and moving, with the little real success achieved by the army of shadows providing downbeat realism.
Gripping from the mesmerising opening shot to the last, where both shots see the magnificent Arc de Triomphe obscured by German soldiers.
Sometimes when I am thinking that a movie deserves the highest rating I can give it, I think that I should wait. Not rate it until I sleep on it, or better yet watch the film a second time.
But not here. Not with this film. Even though it is at moments one of the bleaker movies I have seen recently, I didn't look away from the screen once. It's my difficulty focusing on things when I watch a movie at home. My desperate need to multitask. But within the first couple of minutes I was sitting staring at the screen, all distractions put away. All the lights turned out.
I actually knew very little about this movie before watching…
Melville returns to his experience as a resistance fighter with this dark adaptation of Joseph Kessel's famed book. As with the Le Samourai from two years earlier, Melville carefully controls the visual style, creating a dark, cold, and bleak atmosphere in which the characters struggle not only for their nation's freedom, but for their own survival.
The plot is essentially episodic, with a small band fronted by Philippe Gerbier (underplayed to perfection by Lino Ventura), as they deal with arrests by the Germans, and even betrayal from within. What keeps the story from feeling episodic is handling of characters and their relationships with each other, which shift and grow at different rates, providing consistent interest and through-lines which hide the…
mi consejo, amigo, es éste: si encuentras en tu camino una película sobre la segunda guerra que no mencione las palabras holocausto, campo de concentración o nazi, quiérela chingos. y ya si te quieres poner auteurista, pues quiérela más cuando se trate de melville y ventura, porque entonces tendrás la película sobre la segunda guerra que no menciona las palabras holocausto, campo de concentración o nazi con la cabeza más fría de la historia.
la secuencia del paracaídas:
Appropriately slow-paced, wonderfully acted, and directed with grace, L’armée des ombres by Jean-Pierre Melville is a magnificent political thriller set in Nazi-occupied France right in the middle of World War II that focused on a few members of the French Resistance movement.
Running at nearly two and a half hours long, this film is a showcase of cerebral filmmaking at its best. If not paid close attention to, it can be pretty easy to get lost in the plot and it was particularly difficult to have a clear notion of who all the players were and what their motivations were. From a moral standpoint this was a very thought-provoking film that never took the easy way. The ending was flawlessly…
What makes a hero? Being a bad-ass GI shooting up Nazis and banging bodacious babes? Defending a small town from an invasive tribe of bandits and brutes? Or is it the quiet, small sacrifices and personal trials undertaken in the face of overwhelming and oppressive odds?
Army of Shadows is one of my new favorite movies, an unconventional thriller that hits you hard because it is SO bleak and realistic. There are no crazy raids or explosive firefights; instead there are tense moments of inaction and foreboding periods of silent waiting. As we watch a small branch of French Resistance fighters quietly struggle against the fascist state of Nazi Occupied France, we realize just how impossible the situation is: armed…
Jean-Pierre Melville is a master at patient, gritty storytelling. Army of Shadows has a complex story to tell about the French Resistance during World War II and Melville takes us the long way around as a civil engineer, who is already fairly important to the Resistance because indispensable. It's amazing because it just happens, which has the understated ring of reality to it. That sense of reality is absolutely necessary in this film, which is based on real events. The escapes, scrapes, intrigue, and danger are all real and true and when the final scene comes with title cards telling us that every single person who we have come to care about in this film dies (gruesomely) within two years of the events we just saw, it hits home. Just a really excellent film.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
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