Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Army of Shadows

Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969) [7]

Every once and a while, for whatever reason, I find it hard to get into a film. The most notable example of this was my first viewing Exotica, after which I didn't quite like. I changed my mind after a second viewing and hopefully the same can be said for this film, which I can't quite see as the masterpiece the majority of critical reviews have given it. The film is described as a thriller but there wasn't a whole lot of action. Melville pays crucial attention to the behaviors and interior processes of his characters more than their actions. Granted, there are a few action sequences throughout but I found the film more of a psychological examination of the French Resistance more than something like the Bourne films. The film's strength relies in its examination of the characters and their actions, led by mannered looking Philippe. Melville spends a lot of time focusing on reactions, letting the camera linger to capture the true emotion of the situations the characters are in. One of the main themes is the necessary actions of what those in the Resistance were doing but being knocked up against using ruthless tactics not that much different than the Nazis. Traitors must be executed, people will die, and these characters have to come to some acceptance of their actions. Netflix calls the film bleak and uncompromising, with which I have to agree, and maybe this might be the cause of my issue with the film. I just find it too strenuous at times with its omnipresent downbeat nature. I also feel the film was too long and maybe for one a little streamlining of action wouldn't be too bad. All this doesn't mean that I don't think Army of Shadows is a bad film; it isn't, it's just that I don't see the masterpiece that many want to believe.

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