Army of Shadows – Jean-Pierre Melville (1969)

Army of Shadows (French: L’armée des ombres) is a 1969 French dramasuspense film written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. It is a film adaptation of Joseph Kessel‘s 1943 book of the same name, which blends Kessel’s own experiences as a member of the French Resistance with fictionalized versions of other Resistance members. Army of Shadows follows a small group of Resistance fighters as they move between safe houses, work with the Allied militaries, kill informers, and attempt to evade the capture and execution that they know is their most likely fate. While portraying its characters as heroic, the film presents a bleak, unromantic view of the Resistance. At the time of its initial release in France, Army of Shadows was not well received or widely seen. In the wake of the events of May 1968, French critics denounced the film for its perceived glorification of Charles de Gaulle; at the time, American art-film programmers took their cues from Cahiers du cinéma, which had attacked the film on this basis. Because of this, it was not released in the United States for almost forty years. … Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura), the head of a Resistance network, is arrested by Vichy French police on suspicion of resistance activity. Acquitted for lack of evidence he is nevertheless interned in a camp. He and a young communist begin to work on an escape plan, but before it can come to fruition he is transported to Paris for questioning by the Gestapo. He manages to kill a guard and make his escape. Gerbier manages the resistance network in Marseille. He and three of his men, Félix Lepercq (Paul Crauchet), Guillaume Vermersch, a burly veteran known as Bison (Christian Barbier), and Claude Ullmann, a young recruit known as Le Masque (Claude Mann), need to execute one of their own members, a young agent named Paul Dounat, for having betrayed Gerbier. They find the house next door to that they are using occupied, meaning they cannot use their guns. Lacking a decent knife, they strangle him. Lepercq recruits an old friend in a bar, Jean-François Jardie (Jean-Pierre Cassel), a handsome, risk-loving former pilot. On his first mission to Paris, Jardie meets Mathilde (Simone Signoret), a housewife who is one of the linchpins of Gerbier’s network, and visits his older brother, Luc Jardie (Paul Meurisse), a renowned philosopher who lives a seemingly detached, scholarly life in his Paris mansion. …”
NY Times: ‘Army of Shadows’ Takes a Hard Look at a Horrible and Marvelous Time
YouTube: Army of Shadows – Trailer, Army of Shadows – Clip

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