For many, in this somewhat special period punctuated by the coronavirus, confinement rhymes with screens. It is an opportunity to discover films, binge-watcher series, to catch nuggets next to which we would have passed due to lack of time or to see masterpieces. Tonight at 9:05 p.m., France 3 broadcasts L’Armée des ombres, a monument to the history of cinema directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and carried by a team of immense actors at the top of their game: Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse , Jean-Pierre Cassel, but also Paul Crauchet and Christian Barbier.
In Paris, in October 1942, Philippe Gerbier (Ventura), engineer of bridges and roads, is also one of the leaders of the Resistance. Denounced and captured, he is imprisoned in a prison camp. As he prepares for his escape, he is recovered by the Gestapo. During his transfer to the headquarters of the political police of the Third Reich, he escapes and joins his network in Marseille. With his lieutenants Félix (Crauchet) and Le Masque (Claude Mann), he suppresses the one who denounced him. When Félix is arrested in Lyon, Mathilde (Signoret) and Le Bison (Barbier), who belong to the Parisian division, break into Le Lyonnaise prison with Le Masque to free him, without knowing that Jean-François (Cassel) is is arranged to be in the same cell …
Released in 1969, in a France then in the grip of doubts at the end of the protest movements of May 1968, The Army of Shadows rekindled the painful memory of the Occupation and its reception at the time was mixed, some critics reproaching to Jean-Pierre Melville, a former resistance fighter, his unwavering loyalty to General de Gaulle. Because of these bad reports, the programmers have given up distributing the film in the United States and it will be necessary to wait 2006 to finally go out there: a film event unanimously applauded by American critics.
A very personal film, The Army of Shadows carries with it the essence of the Melville cinema, which will say: “I carried it in me twenty-five years and fourteen months exactly. I had to do it and I do it now, completely overwhelmed, without the slightest hint of cocorico. It is a piece of my memory, of my flesh. “ Adapted very faithfully from Joseph Kessel’s novel, it also refers to Melville’s own memories of a resistance fighter, and to the action of Lucie Aubrac, through the magnificent role of Mathilde. The staging, underlined by the music of Eric Demarsan, is constantly magnified with breathtaking dark highlights. Each shot, each camera movement, each insert, borrows a heartbreaking nostalgia. Fifty years later, The Army of Shadows has not aged; its darkness and its beauty always upset.
The Army of Shadows trailer: