English Title: The Army Of Shadows
Original Title: L’armée des ombres
Country: France, Italy
Language: French, German, English
Genre: Drama, War
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Writers: Joseph Kessel, Jean-Pierre Melville
This is the second Melville’s film I have watched, the previous one is LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970), which I am underwhelmed, but this one, definitely is one of the best films of all the time.
After two films, no wonder Melville’s grim and composed shots made him the vanguard of his time. The Resistance Vs. Gestapo theme can hardly be more authentic and callous than this one, it daringly exposes the merciless danger which one have to face and swallow as a member of the Resistance, how humanity is gradually lost as any individual is too powerless to change his own fate or someone else’s. The film is a slow-burner, the last 30 minutes is the most thrilling and bewitching part, which hangs by a thread by naturally creating a sheer tension among all the characters. It caught my full intention and felt a strong satisfaction afterwards.
I admire the film so much as that I could tell a potential influence of Melville’s work on Johnny To (a great Hong Kong auteur of this generation), who establishes a criterion of manhood among his films (cops, killers, gangsters), which perhaps has been diluted nowadays while the world becomes more colorful and male friendship replaced by ambiguous gay interest.
It is an auteur film, my favorite scenes including the parachute scene, the killing of the traitor and the argument before the final assassination. Apparently actors do not have too much space here to showcase their skills due to their characters’ identities, nevertheless, Simone Signoret is unforgettable in the film (especially the final scene although she didn’t age too well).
In my last article, I mentioned that maybe I should stop watching French films (thanks to the ridiculous Donkey Skin 1970, 4/10), but Army Of Shadows totally rejuvenates my confidence (it was made in 1969, the same era of Donkey Skin, French people are truly versatile). But I think Melville’s works are a little bit unwieldy for my digestion, I should not be too hasty to finish all his opuses.