The Army of Shadows

Friday 17: Cine/Club: Randall Museum

Jean Pierre Melville’s THE ARMY OF SHADOWS (1995, France)

Another film that fills you in on some of the fascinating events of WWII that may not be covered in your social studies class. In this case, the French Resistance: a group of unusual French citizens working to sabotage the Nazis any way they can in occupied France. Unfortunately, the Nazis are slowly reducing their numbers. Who is giving them away to the enemy? Could it be one of their own?


The Army of Shadows gives you a tremendous context in which to place your knowledge of WWII. Lots of ordinary citizens gave their lives to resist the Nazis, and the group of people in the film come from real life. The film acts like a thriller, but also is filled with carefully etched personalities, and a great suspenseful plot. All the major people in the film lived through these events, so they can nautrually bring them vividly to life. You’ll be on the edge of your seats.


Jean Pierre Melville adopted the last name of his favorite writer, Herman Melville (Moby Dick). Much of his life follows the same unsual pattern. During WW II he worked in the French Resistance against the Nazis. Refused in his attempts to work in film, he decided to make his own films with his own money, and eventually owned his own studio. His friendship with Godard (another film maker associated with the French “new wave”) led to his habit of filming on location—but his fondness for America gangster films can be found in all his early films—the weapons,coats, fedoras dot many of his “film noirs” like Le Samurai and Le Circle Rouge. He is not very well known in the U.S.

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