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Army Of Shadows Review


Essential
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

Room At The Top Review


Extraordinary
Watch a scene at random from Room at the Top and you might think you've stumbled upon a garden-variety romance, what with its parlor-room confessions of love and lingering cigarette breaks. But give it a minute or two, waiting for Laurence Harvey (our favorite Manchurian assassin) to get his groove on and you'll realize what a monstrous film this truly is. Harvey plays a middle-class accountant(!) who decides there is "room at the top" for even him -- and so he sets about wooing the local business leader's daughter. Meanwhile, he's also having his way with a considerably older woman (Simone Signoret, who won an Oscar for her role) on the side. Creepy, perverse, and inimitable, this film has withstood 45 years of changing social values and will easily take another 45 more. For 1959, this film was decades ahead of its time and deserves a much wider audience than it ever received back then. Seek it out; you won't be disappointed.
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