This atmospheric WWII drama recounts the perilous efforts of a group of underground fighters in the French Resistance, which Melville based on his own personal accounts as a freedom fighter against Hitler’s Nazi regime.
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It is at first hard to understand why, released in the radical 60s, this was seen as a glorification of the Resistance. On the contrary, it shows them as ruthlessly pragmatic, detached, unable to trust even each other, each locked in their own world of voice-over because there's no one else to confide in. It is a masterpiece, a film that gives the cinematic cool of Le Samourai a political heft that leaves you broken.
It think that it would be most apt to assert that rather than ARMY OF SHADOWS repurposing the crime movie template to suit the milieu of the Resistance, it is in fact his complicated nostalgia for his time in the Resistance that has already repeatedly informed the melancholy cool of those very crime films. These are movies about covert activities, fraught fraternity, and betrayal - both romantic and fatalistic.
I like this particular depiction of the Germans, because I think it is more realistic. I don't think they were the caricatures of evil that you often see in Hollywood movies. They were bureaucrats, ordinary people, who participated in the banality of evil.
A tremendous film. No depiction of the constant dread that signified living as a member of the french resistance registers in such powerful, disturbing manner than in Jean Pierre Melville's masterpiece. A must see for everyone.
Didn't know it was possible: That each main character could have the exact same dispassionate emotional arc throughout an entire motion picture. I still liked this for what it was. The shadow-drenched style went a long way to illustrating the struggle against the German occupation. But I felt a significant emotional disconnect between the characters and their situation. Great urgency was lacking a lot of the time.
Melville's metallic tones and stark existentialism have never been more oppressively intimate yet thematically vast. A portrait of the early days of insurrection, as moral quandaries harden into uncompromising force. It does show heroism, but also the dark side of it, and I can't recall a war film feeling more resolutely sad.
It still amazes me that this film was not released in the U.S. until nearly 40 years after it was made. It is one of the best French films of all time and remains my favorite from Melville. It's part war film, part noir, part Melville gangster-cool. Incredible moviemaking and an all-time classic.