This visual metonym for the military and moral fall of France had, surprisingly enough, never been recreated for a French film before Melville dared to open Army of Shadows with it, and it carries a charge of melancholy that persists throughout the film. The narrative begins in , well after much of France had fallen to the Nazis and when the Resistance movement was still small and fractured.
Meville's screenplay, which is based on the fact-based novel by Resistance fighter Joseph Kessel, splits its focus among several Resistance fighters, thus maintaining the novel's multiple-interior-monologue structure. As a result, there is no one protagonist, although we come close with Philippe Gerbier Lino Ventura , a well-educated, practical, and sometimes ruthless civil engineer who heads a small cell of Resistance fighters.
Crucially, when we first meet Gerbier, he has been captured and is being transported to a Vichy prison camp. Thus, the threat of capture and death hangs over the characters from the film's opening moments, reminding us that this is not an escapist fantasy of action theatrics, but rather a morality play about desperation and fatalism. The other crucial character is a rarity for Melville's typically testosterone-heavy universe: Mathilde Simone Signoret , a steely woman of intense bravery who nonetheless has a crucial weakness that brings the film to its tragic climax.
He also infuses the film with moments of black humor, such as the scene in which Gerbier must return immediately to France from London, where he has been recruiting aid from the British, and is forced to parachute into a war zone despite never having done so. His slightly comical reluctance to make the final leap is a welcome touch of humor, but it is also testament to the fact that even the most hardened among us have moments of doubt or weakness. Although there is little conventional action in Army of Shadows --much of the film focuses on the details of process and planning, rather than the excitement of execution--when Melville employs violence, he does it with a hard edge that drains the film of easy thrills.
While the scene is a foreshadowing of more difficult choices yet to come, it also functions as one of cinema's most unrelenting depictions of what is involved in taking another person's life. Unable to use a gun because neighbors might here, the Resistance fighters calmly debate how to execute the young traitor right in front of him , eventually deciding on a towel as a method of strangulation. In some ways, it feels like the kind of brutal dark comedy one might find in a Hitchcock film, but it also works to remind us that these Resistance fighters are desperate men who will, if necessary, employ brutally violent tactics to ensure their own survival and, by proxy, the survival of France.
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Heroism, Melville shows, is a deeply complicated affair. Beyond its thematic underpinnings, Army of Shadows is a visual tour de force, melding Melville's traditional use of black-and-white aesthetics with a desaturated color palette that immediately produces a sense of despair and longing.
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The cinematography by Pierre Lhomme who also oversaw the film's restoration is simple, but fiercely engaging; this not a film of elaborate camera movements, but rather of strong, classical compositions that beg for an intense gaze. It is almost as though Melville is daring you to look away, which is why he never moves the camera in the opening shot as the Germans march right toward us.
Army of Shadows is a film that tests your nerves and your will, which is why it is such a fitting portrait of men and women risking their lives for a pursuit they may very well never live to see successful.
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Aspect Ratio 1. Criterion's new high-definition transfer was taken from the original, restored camera negative, and it looks absolutely fantastic. In keeping with Jean-Pierre Melville's visual style, the film is so monochromatic as to be virtually black and white, with cool blues and grays dominating the color palette and a complete absence of warm hues.
Melville also liked to shoot very dark, and the transfer is exceptionally good at bringing out the details in even the densest shadows and murkiest nighttime scenes. Pellicer t.
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Son livre, La reine de France. Ms Col Folch t. Agustin de Jesus Maria. Chapitre X.
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Ms , Ms, Ms , Ms , Ms Dgmicro Mathieu et S. Pellicer, op. En sept ans, elle ira voir ses enfants seulement une fois tous les trois mois. Dedieu, op.
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Fol 5. Agustin de Jesus Maria, Madrid, Carlos y D.