The Army of Shadows

Movie Information

In Brief: Often called the "godfather of the New Wave" (a title he ultimately rejected), Jean-Pierre Melville is a hit-and-miss acquired taste — something of which The Army of Shadows (1969) is a perfect example. Coming right after his stylistic masterpiece Le Samourai (1967), Shadows is downright ordinary. Oh, it's well-made, well-acted and certainly solid. But apart from one "swish-pan" scene transition and the desaturated color, the only thing that distinguishes it from the run-of-the-mill 1960s WWII films (of which there was no shortage) is the fact that it follows a group of French Underground freedom fighters rather than a specific plot or event. I suppose a case can be made that it's gloomier than its U.S. or British counterpart — it is undeniably a singularly downbeat film. But if was really any more of a downer than, say, George Seaton's The Counterfeit Traitor (1962) — which I think scarred me for life at the age of seven — is open to question. That said, there are certainly moments of greatness in Melville's film, but I am hard-pressed to say they end up forming a great movie.  
Genre: WWII Drama
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret. Claude Mann
Rated: NR

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present The Army of Shadows Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 828-273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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