Release Date: April 28th, 2006 (Film Forum) by Rialto Pictures.
Original French Release Date: September 12th, 1969 (France).
The Cast: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Claude Mann, Paul Crauchet, Christian Barbier, Serge Reggiani, André Dewavrin, Alain Dekok.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: In 1942, Philippe (Ventura), along with the help of Mathilde (Signoret), fights in the French Resistance against German occupation.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: By no means a standard war film, Army of Shadows takes a while to develop its plot without much action. Philippe gets sent off a concentration camp at first because of a traitor who spilled the beans about him to German officials. Upon Philippe’s escape, he hunts down the traitor and has him killed. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to sympathize with him because writer/director Jean-Pierre Melville hides his emotions from the audience—Philippe simply doesn’t open up to anyone, not even to the seductive Mathilde. The plot becomes slightly more complicated when one of the Resistance fighters, Félix (Crauchet), gets imprisoned by the Germans and Philippe tries to rescue him, but soon discovers how much pain and physical abuse he went through in prison. The performances are believable, but the script simply fails to be engaging. On a positive note, the cinematography does look impressive with gritty colors that reflect the generally gritty atmosphere. It’s ultimately difficult to care about what happens to any of the characters because of the minimal character development. At 136 minutes, this film overstays its welcome and drags in too many awkwardly slow-paced scenes.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: The plot occasionally meanders with minimal character development.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 5
IN A NUTSHELL: Well-shot and atmospheric, but with minimal character development and a meandering, awkwardly-paced plot.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
The "A" Menu