Army of Shadows
(L’armée des ombres)
Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Simone Signoret, Jean-Pierre Cassel,
This drama of the French Resistance is Joseph Kessel’s novel translated through director Jean-Pierre Melville’s personal recollections of the period, and of course his extraordinary cinema technique. Lino Ventura stars as a member of a Resistance unit in the early years of the war, when nobility and recklessness were called for in equal measure. He wears a suit in prison, but sangfroid masks purity of mission: he’ll give you his last cigarette or execute you, depending. In a marvelous cast, Simone Signoret stands out as a master of disguises—bomb-maker, whore, old woman, collaborationist nurse, and, fatally, mother. Great escapes, intricate plotting, superb suspense in secret acts of courage: following all of Melville’s great gangster films, all the experiments in form, here is the original underworld. Army of Shadows is the Melville blueprint, revealed post-construction.