Army of shadows

Monday, September 12, 2019 – 8:20 PM – The Cinematheque

(L’armée des ombres)
France/Italy 1969. Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville. 143 min.

Army of Shadows

NEW RESTORATION! Melville’s most personal film is, perhaps by no coincidence, his most powerful too, a haunting meditation on wartime survival that effortlessly transposes his noir sensibilities from criminal underworld to military underground. Based on Joseph Kessel’s 1943 memoir, and redolent of Melville’s own involvement with the French Resistance, Army of Shadows tracks a network of guerrilla fighters (played by Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Simone Signoret, among others) and their efforts to elude capture in Nazi-occupied France. Released in the fallout of May 1968, the film was derided by leftist critics — most savagely, those at Cahiers du cinéma — for its perceived glorification of then-president Charles de Gaulle, a central figure of the Resistance. Its restoration and re-release in 2006 precipitated a seismic reversal in critical appreciation; it’s now regarded as one of Melville’s masterworks. “Masterfully made, with no detail unattended” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times).

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