It's hard to imagine a cinematic culture where a monumental achievement like Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 film Army of Shadows would fall into obscurity, but then again we just recently got our eyes on Killer of Sheep. The reasons behind the withholding of Melville's unreleased French resistance epic are plentiful; they stretch from the arguable lack of commercial appeal of the film to its controversial, striking opening shot of German soldiers goosestepping down the Champs Elysees, two decades after they had actually commandeered the country. Whatever the reason, 2006 saw Rialto Distribution (which recently looked over the re-release of Alberto Lattuada's fearsome Mafioso) supervised the reappraisal of Shadows with the help of its ace cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme.
In the murky gloom of a makeshift work camp, soldiers drop off Gerbier (the immortal Lino Ventura) to be put eventually in front of the Nazi tribunal. The German occupancy of France has sent a few loyalists underground to join the resistance, calculating ways to lower the German numbers and quickly dispatching any members of the resistance that get loose-lipped. When he is brought before the Nazis, Gerbier orchestrates a breathless escape from their headquarters. From there, Melville's film becomes a stunning, globetrotting spy masterpiece, shifting from the windy desolation of north France to the burnt dystopia of Marseilles with a brief stint in London.
Continue reading: Army Of Shadows Review