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Criterion Collection: Army of Shadows
     

Criterion Collection: Army of Shadows

4.6 8
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville, Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel

Cast: Jean-Pierre Melville, Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel

 

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WWII tale of heroic French Resistance fighters battling the occupying Nazi forces. Vignettes include an escape from Gestapo headquarters, the execution of a traitor and the attempted rescue of a tortured comrade. Critically ignored in France when it first opened in 1969, the film was later rediscovered and hailed as a lost masterpiece, finally receiving a U.S. release

Overview

WWII tale of heroic French Resistance fighters battling the occupying Nazi forces. Vignettes include an escape from Gestapo headquarters, the execution of a traitor and the attempted rescue of a tortured comrade. Critically ignored in France when it first opened in 1969, the film was later rediscovered and hailed as a lost masterpiece, finally receiving a U.S. release in 2006. Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Claude Mann, and Christian Barbier co-star. Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, who served in the French Resistance himself before becoming a filmmaker. ~ Jack Rodgers

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Audiences coming to Jean-Pierre Melville's Army Of Shadows with the expectation of typical war movie action, suspense, and heroics will be in for a disappointment -- though they may also be pleasantly surprised and downright enlightened by what they do find in place of those attributes. It is, to be sure, one of the finest movies ever made about war -- and specifically World War II, and especially about the role in which France found itself cast -- from the civilian point-of-view, and perhaps the best movie ever made about the wartime resistance movement in France. But its very accuracy and understated realism will probably surprise and disappoint audiences raised on the notions of such movies put forth by Hollywood. This is principally because the movie's focus is on the psychological aspects of that underground war, and mostly the film's mood is one of isolation and caution, while its tone is somber and dark. And considering the ominous tone over much of what we see -- and death does appear on screen here, quickly and brutally when it comes, even when it is referred to -- we also see surprisingly little of the enemy for much of the movie. Melville (who was involved with the resistance during the war) understood that the reality of such underground work was that one didn't have any more contact with the enemy than was absolutely necessary. It's all a far cry from the heroics and bold statements of patriotism that one usually expects in movies on this subject, but the resulting tension results in an engrossing, often spellbinding cinematic experience across 140 minutes of screen time -- this reviewer (who never has the time for such indulgences) went back to see it three more times. As to the cast, Lino Ventura gives the performance of a lifetime as the operational head of a highly effective resistance cell, and his work is matched by the entire cast, which includes Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel (in an unusual and highly effective dramatic performance), Christian Barbier and Jean-Marie Robain, all doing extraordinary work. Ironically, for all of its many cinematic virtues, Army of Shadows was totally neglected in France when it opened in 1969 -- the French had just come off of two years of political strife growing out of a massive student strike, which seemed to render the events of the Second World War very distant in most people's minds, and Charles De Gaulle, the French leader and political figure most closely associated with the war, had just stepped down as president at the time. Additionally, the movie was overlooked entirely in the United States. Indeed, it wasn't even seen until 2006, following extensive restoration to replace worn and faded source materials, when it opened for what ended up being a three-month sell-out run at New York's Film Forum, an occasion for it was greeted by many US critics -- with no loss of irony -- as one of the best movies of the year.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/27/2013
UPC:
8809154125209
Original Release:
1969
Source:
Imports
Sales rank:
39,689

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lino Ventura Gerbier
Paul Meurisse Luc
Jean-Pierre Cassel Jean-Francois
Simone Signoret Mathilde
Serge Reggiani Barber
Claude Mann Le Masque
Christian Barbier Le Bison
Alain Libolt Dounat
Paul Crauchet Felix
Alain Mottet Commander of the camp
Jean-Marie Robain Baron de Ferte-Talloire
Albert Michel Gendarm
Georges Sellier Colonel Jarret
Marco Perrin Octave Bonnafous
Hubert DeLapparent Aubert
Jeanne Perez Actor
Alain Dekock Legrain

Technical Credits
Jean-Pierre Melville Director,Screenwriter
Colette Baudot Costumes/Costume Designer
Françoise Bonnot Editor
Jacques Carrere Sound/Sound Designer
Eric De Marsan Score Composer
Jacques Dorfmann Producer
Pierre Lhomme Cinematographer
Théo Meurisse Art Director,Production Designer

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Criterion Collection: Army of Shadows 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Melville's beautifully stark and moody compositions highlight this World War II tragedy involving a group of French underground resistance fighters who must eliminate each other in order to keep their secrecy organization in tact. I could quibble about laughably low production value in some instances but Melville's powerful vision (based on first-hand experience, apparently) overcomes such minor considerations. This film came on the heels of three very good gangster films by the director during the mid to late 60s and much of that noir-esque style is employed here to marvellous effect. In all, it's a compelling and ultimately heartbreaking experience.
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WRN More than 1 year ago
Gripping, what they had to do, to complete there mission.
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