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Army of Shadows/L’armée des ombres

January 10, 2011

I was just recently able to see Army of Shadows(1969), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, for a second time at NYC’s Film Forum.

The film is adapted from Joseph Kessel’s Army of Shadows, an account of the author’s experience in the French Resistance, published in London, in 1943.

Army of Shadows follows Gerbier and the members of his small cell (it is 1942, before the rise of the maquis guerrilla bands, and the number of active Resistance fighters is only in the hundreds) as they are arrested, tortured, imprisoned, find a way to escape or to engineer the escape of others, and eventually murdered, in some cases by the Nazis, in others by their own comrades, who have judged them a danger to security.
“Those who come to the film with expectations of romantic heroes and daring action sequences that culminate in uplifting endings, that is, will be bewildered and disappointed by Melville’s rigorous focus on process rather than action and by the pessimism that tempers his characters as individuals and comrades in arms.”
-Amy Taubin from Criterion

The film is an incredible piece of art that illustrates the discipline and organization of the French Resistance. I left the theater feeling quite somber and curious about what kind of political climate inspires social struggle. Will humans resist without a clear fascist threat? Are clandestine activities impossible under the modern surveillance state?
Army of Shadows evokes so many questions, and daydreams, of how we could organize resistance to the multiplicity of social and ecological ills, today. This film is inspiring and can be an example of the level of commitment that coordinated resistance can attain.

For more about Army of Shadows there are a handful of links to various media at the bottom of Film Forums webpage for the film.
Army of Shadows

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