Melville was a resistance fighter in World War II, and that enables him to capture the mood of the era perfectly. The bravery, the melancholy, the dread, it's all there. Melville's style is so captivating that the film just flew by. This is a new favorite World War II film.
An unrequitedly sad movie, a love letter to a fallen time just like Gone With the Wind, and if that wasn’t obvious enough Melville had them go see it at the theatre. This film is brilliantly-made, ripe with beautiful imagery and metaphor for the shift from the ornate beauty of France, chandeliers, to the cold, loud nature of industry of WWII that has never gone away. Makes you think about what peace really means.
A gut-wrenching masterpiece. Heavy subject matter handled expertly. War is Hell, the Devil is in the details, and Hell is other people. Although dark, the film never descends into nihilism, as the characters abide by their codes of ethics in uncertain times. Robbed of their own country, duty gives meaning to their lives. An Existentialist film in that sense: in the end, the characters are their deeds.
A film that so truthfully depicts the utter wastefulness of war could only be done by someone who had lived through it. As in his other films Melville’s characters live and move through an underworld where lives are expendable and the objectives mysterious and inconclusive. Instead of heroic achievement we witness loss and betrayal and for his heroes inevitable defeat. Perhaps this is what makes them heroes.
How can a 140 minute film be so lean! I'm home on a friday night recovering from the flu and this second-time viewing made everything better! The beginning of this film when Gerbier is captured by the NAZIs, the cold-blooded discussion of the quietest way to kill a young collaborator with him watching the discussion, to Simone-Signoret's cool-steely determination, and on and on and on... obviously avery personal film
I can see why in 69 this wasn’t the right movie for that period, but my goodness something was missed for that time. It’s truly a heartbreaking tribute to an impossible time. Frankly if it was released it could have shown those French bureaucrats how far they’ve fallen.
Simone Signoret is wonderful, as usual. Not sure I would have liked this as much if I hadn't read accounts of the Resistance, and could fill in the silences with background. Marguerite Duras' "The War" is a memoir of her life as a Resistance member, and describes the moral conundrums they wrestled with. Biographies of Francois Mitterand tell how he beat out the other resistance heads to win De Gaulle's favor.
It should be noted that the restored re-release of the film elicits awards, as if it is a new film. We should be discussing the cultural politics and economics of digital restoration because all the inequities of the global economic system are inscribed in it. Only certain national cinemas are allowed the luxury of retrospective self-celebration. The incumbency of wealth and prestige reaffirms the hierarchy.
Melville, to me, is only second to Godard in terms of the nouvelle vague. His cinema is true pastiche, taking elements from American genre films and filtering it through a literary, existentialist, intellectual, and undeniably French sensibility. Army of Shadows has grit in spades, but also a humanism born of Melville’s real war experiences. Masculinity is more complex here than in other Melville films, I like that.
Re-purposes the vignette structure to marvellous impact, the missions a standalone threat to survival, further missions unimaginable - a structure I disliked in The Big Red One. Use of space and especially sound are haunting, the score used so sparingly that the wind, rain, ticking become oppressive. Mainly its brutality is vital to circumstance, the emergence of a cruel code seemingly necessary for self worth.
This film felt a bit outdated (watched it in 2017) but it gives a great insight into the work of the resistants during the second world war and the way they proceeded sometimes heartlessly. Lino Ventura, as the main character is truly charismatic and Simone Signoret plays a female resistant fully dedicated to the cause. Not sure I would share this complete devotion to the boss but a very good film about this era.