Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 thriller about the French Resistance, which received its first U.S. release only in 2006, is a great film but also one of the most upsetting ones I know. Melville based his story on a novel by Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour) published during the occupation that’s reportedly far more optimistic; in the movie a resistance leader (Lino Ventura) gradually discovers that he and his comrades must betray their own humanity for the sake of their struggle, though in the end their efforts are mainly futile. As Dave Kehr wrote, “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.” With Simone Signoret (in one of her best performances), Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Serge Reggiani. In French with subtitles.
Army of Shadows
2 hours 25 min • 1969