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Army Of Shadows Criterion Blu-ray Review


“Army Of Shadows” is arguably Jean-Pierre Melville’s best film.

Based on the novel by Joseph Kessel, “Army Of Shadows” is a WWII set drama about the French Resistance against Nazis. The story primarily follows Philippe Gerbier who is a middle aged man that is in charge of a French Resistance network. The story of the film deals with the innerworkings of the Resistance, other members (such as Luc Jardie and Mathilde), rescue operations, prison escapes, hideouts, traitors, run-ins with the Gestapo, and the Resistance making tough choices.

Despite running 145 minutes, 1969’s “Army Of Shadows” is a tight, intense, grim and dark wartime drama that often plays like a spy movie in the vein of something like “Bridge Of Spies.” Rather than glorifying the heroes or focusing on action set pieces, director Jean-Pierre Melville (who was a member of the French Resistance himself in real life) instead gives the movie a sense of harsh realism as the French Resistance fighters essentially sacrifice themselves for the greater good. For those expecting a happy ending or moments of heartwarming victory, you don’t get that here. Melville (who is perhaps best known for directing “Le Samourai”) clearly wanted to explore the dark side of fighting for freedom along with the brutal decisions that had to be made. This authentic and bleak approach makes the film much more refreshing in comparison to the average film.

The performances here are nothing short of excellent. Lino Ventura is spot on casting as Philippe. He makes the strong and sometimes cold leader come to life on screen. Simone Signoret makes Mathilde easily one of the most engaging characters whose arc is integral to the story.


Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? Viewers can expect a nice clean digital restoration. 

Audio Track: French Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? A perfectly adequate Mono track.

* A booklet containing credits, photos, 2 essays (one by writer Amy Taubin and the other by Professor/Author Robert O. Paxton), and an interview excerpt between Melville and Rui Nogueira
* 2 “Army of Shadows” trailers
* A 1968 TV news segment from “Chroniques de France” on “Army Of Shadows.”
* A 2006 interview with “Army Of Shadows” cinematographer Pierre Lhomme that also includes a restoration demo and a color test gallery.
* A 2006 interview with editor Francoise Bonnot who talks about Melville and his work with him on “Army Of Shadows.”
* “L’Invite Du Dimanche”- A half-hour episode of the French TV series about Jean-Pierre Melville and the “Army Of Shadows” production.
* “Melville Et L’Armee Des Ombres”- A 2005 30 minute documentary about Melville and “Army Of Shadows” that contains a host of interviews with those who worked on the film.
* “Le Journal De La Resistance”- A documentary short about the end of the war essentially.
* “Simone Signoret And Lucie Aubrac”- A featurette on Lucie Abrac’s influence on the character of Mathilde played by Simone Signoret.
* “Ouvrez Les Guillemets”- An episode of the French series about the French Resistance.
* A 2006 commentary by author, film historian and Jean-Pierre Melville expert Ginette Vincendeau.

April 11, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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