Melville's followup to "Le Samourai" is getting a theatrical release here in the states.
Roger Ebert, in his review, calls it Melville's best film. It was just a few years ago when in his book, "The Great Movies", he declared "Le Samourai" one of the 100 best films ever made, so you can imagine what a bold statement it is for him to declare this film Melville's best.
L'armée des ombres Army of Shadows Jean-Pierre Melville 1969 France / ItalyResistance operators in German-occupied France seek out traitors within their own Organization.The product of a master craftsman: Melville's best films are so methodic, meticulous, consistent and well-structured that it is impossible not to imagine an extremely confident director behind the camera knowing what goes here, what goes there, what comes next and how it all should look. And this looks no less than fantastic - the same blues and greys which marked the interiors of Le samouraï two years previously, and the washed-out, muddy greens which would mark Le cercle rouge[/url] a year later. Visual composition is striking and disciplined, sound design is excellent, and mise-en-scène in general gives it a weight exclusive to its director: professional, authentic, downbeat. Its narrative structure is unusual, and requires much patience - episodic, going from one character to the next, with voice-overs from each of them as a sort of collective reading of memoirs. In following this character then that character, there at first seems an excessive need to give verbose details to the clandestine operations on display, but there is a close-knit network of emotionally-tied characters which forms from this. Not to mention that, by the end of its two-hour-twenty running time, a despair lingers over everything, accumulated by some harrowing, tense, memorable scenes throughout: the key player's improvised escape from Nazi headquarters, a bungled execution of the traitor who sent him there, a rescue-in-disguise of another Resistance fighter, and the bleak, sadistic execution of prisoners being told to run from one end of a hall to the other, with a Nazi machine gun firing them down.