Army of Shadows

Rated NR 2006

As allusive as its title, Jean-Pierre Melville's French resistance saga made (and tepidly received) in 1969 emerges from the mists of time in a new 35mm restoration as a career-capping epic tragedy. Adapted from Joseph Kessel's wartime novel, Army of Shadows follows a taciturn resistance agent (Lino Ventura) through a series of arrests, escapes, and betrayals. Ventura looks like an accountant and thinks like a chess master; he has no past, no family, and -- except for brief moments of terror -- no expression. Dodging the Gestapo or, in an excruciating scene, executing a traitor, Ventura is reason made tangible, exuding a purity of purpose beyond mere action. Some may find Melville's tone too detached, but the filmmaker is himself something of a chess player. Only when his vision reaches its chilling conclusion is it apparent that the title is absolutely literal. This really is an army of shadows. They are, all of them, dead men.

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Army of Shadows

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