For the first, and maybe the only, time this year, you are in the hands of a master.
Stream Army of Shadows
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Infused with the bleak romanticism of Melville's gangster movies ("Le Samouraï," "Bob le Flambeur"), and deepened by his own experiences in the Resistance, this hard-bitten tribute to freedom fighters makes most current movies look flabby and undisciplined. Don't miss it.
Composed of relatively few events and scenes, it's often excruciatingly tense and never less than heartbreakingly human. And as much as I admire "Munich," Shadows leaves Spielberg's film in the dust in the moral-ambiguity department. Never before seen in the States, it's already on my year's ten-best list. (April 2006 Premiere)
It's here that Melville fully achieved his notion of the sublime, applying "Le Samouraï's" "empty" compositions and near theatrical blocking, as well as its methodical suspense, cosmic fatalism, and sense of grim solitude, to a subject far closer to his heart, namely his own World War II experiences.
It's a white-knuckler all the way, with most of that tension coming from the smallest facial expressions exchanged in uneasy silence between compatriots who knew what they were getting into, but were nevertheless unprepared for the moral and emotional fallout of their patriotic actions.
This film, which was never released in America and will now be making its way across the country in limited release, has been immaculately restored and features new subtitles. You can get lost in the blackness of its heart and its shadows. You might never come back.
The result is a brilliant and relentless thriller, painted in Melville's trademark shades of charcoal and midnight blue, marked by daring escapes, unimaginable moments of self-sacrifice and unconscionable acts of betrayal.
One particular bit of luck for this reissue is the fact that Melville's cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme, was on hand to help with the restoration of this thirty-five-year-old film. The result is a paradoxical beauty. Very many of the scenes are in sunlight--Melville avoided such facile stuff as shadows for suspense--yet they are chilly. The seasons vary, but the general effect is of a bright winter day that is freezing.
Not just one of the great films of the '60s but one of the great films, period -- and the chance to discover it at the beginning of the 21st century, in an era when we think we've seen it all, is an unquantifiable privilege.
Lino Ventura is grand as a solemn resistance leader. He's backed by a knockout cast that includes Simone Signoret.