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…
Upon first release, political and social turmoil led this film to be extremely criticized due to its portrayal of Charles de Gaulle. While he is shown in the film once or twice, the viewers were too blinded to see the real heroes of the war. While France was forced to live under Nazi occupation, a select few abandoned their quaint and quiet lives to fight the invaders and help the Allies. This film shows a great deal of what life was like for one of these lonely fighters. ‘Army of Shadows’ shows no over-romantic escapades, only the downtrodden existence and paranoia that permeated throughout the resistance fighters. Most of the fighters never knew each other’s name, who to trust, and if they would be found out along with their families. For a film full of slow, tense scenes, the acting and camerawork was stellar and quite remarkable.
If Army of Shadows doesn't give you anxiety or rattle your nerves just a lot, you are not paying close enough attention.
Jean-Pierre Melville's film on the French Resistance, L'armee des ombres (1969), drawn from a novel by Joseph Kessel. Melville is best known for his philosophical pastiches of American gangster films (Le samourai, Le doulos), and some of their distinctive rhythms—aching stillness relieved by sharp flurries of action—survive here. The film is long and episodic, strangely divided between art-house enigmas and melodramatic payoffs for the matinee crowd. The unifying theme is one of perverse nostalgia for the good old/bad old days. With Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, and Jean-Pierre Cassel. In French with subtitles. 145 min.
L'armé des ombres is one of the few movies I've the past five years handed a maximum rating on first watch. This second viewing only confirmed my initial claim. It is a masterpiece, and it has one of the strongest openings of a movie I've ever seen.
Full review at Stories from the Ark
For now L'armé des ombres makes:
- A shoo-in for placing at the top of my future 60x60s
- A top placing on my ranking of French movies
- A well deserved place on my Movies To See Before Your End Credits
- A shoo-in for another top 20 placing on my next edition of Favorites
I love this movie. It gives us very little information; just what the characters know about their specific part of their mission. But we know WHY they're fighting, and that's enough. Although Melville's "cold" approach to his material can be off putting, I think it works perfectly in this film.
And Lino Ventura is a bad-ass.
This may be even better than Le Samourai (A film that ranks in my top 20). I'll definitely need to give it a follow up viewing soon to determine which I prefer. All I know is, Jean Pierre Melville is fast becoming one of my favorite directors. So many intense sequences in this movie. The perfect use of sound. Little details are endless. I have a strong urge to watch it a second time tonight.
Jean-Pierre Melville cria aqui um excelente cenário da Segunda Guerra Mundial, focando nos esforços da Resistência Francesa.
Os maiores méritos do filme estão em sua direção e roteiro, que conseguem extrair de seus atores magníficas atuações (especialmente de Lino Ventura).
O filme não busca mostrar o heroísmo de seus combatentes, mas sim evidenciar o quão humanos aqueles personagens são. E nesse aspecto o filme se sai bem, pois lida com diversos personagens e acaba criando certa dimensão e complexidade para cada um deles.
Com aspectos técnicos impecáveis (direção de arte, figurino, fotografia) e excelentes atuações, roteiro, direção e trilha sonora, 'Exército das Sombras' é o melhor filme da (ótima) carreira de Mellvile.
The movie is powerful because of its subject matter, clarified and purified by Melville's meticulous and scrupulous style. But Melville, refusing to tart up the topic, or distill a single narrative from his source material, relies on the viewer's prior understanding of the larger context of the Resistance. If you don't imaginatively engage with the somewhat isolated vignettes that Melville gives you, the movie can't land with the appropriate force.
Now that was a refreshing take of brutal reality underground heroes face. The only thing keeping it from true greatness is the chunky pacing.
For five years, film critic Scott Tobias compiled "The New Cult Canon" in a regular column for The A.V. Club…