Tuesday 25 January at 7.30pm
Margaret Day Room, King’s Arm Barn
The Henley Falaise Leichlingen Twinning Association will be showing, in French with English subtitles, the film L’Armée des Ombres (The Army in the Shadows).
L’Armée des Ombres is a 1969 World War II suspense-drama film written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, and starring Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse and Jean-Pierre Cassel. The French-Italian co-production is a film adaptation of Joseph Kessel’s 1943 book of the same name, which mixes Kessel’s experiences as a member of the French Resistance with fictional versions of other Resistance members.
The film follows a small group of Resistance fighters as they move between safe houses, work with the Allied militaries, kill informers and attempt to evade the capture and execution that they know is their most likely fate. While portraying its characters as heroic, the film presents a bleak, unromantic view of the Resistance.
At the time of its initial release in France, L’Armée des Ombres was not well received nor widely seen. In the wake of the events of May 1968, French critics denounced the film for its perceived glorification of Charles de Gaulle; at the time, American art-film programmers took their cues from Cahiers du Cinéma, which had attacked the film on this basis. Because of this, the film was not released in the United States for almost forty years. In the mid-1990s Cahiers du Cinéma published a reappraisal of the film and Melville’s oeuvre, leading to its restoration and re-release in 2006. The film was greeted with critical adulation in the U.S., appearing in many critics’ year-end top ten lists.
In its devotion to, and forging of, the mythology surrounding the French resistance, the film remains a work of moving ideological commitment as well as beautifully detailed orchestration. The Guardian
Bleak and beautiful by turns, a rare work of art that thrills the senses and the mind. New York Times
Melville handles the suspenseful set-pieces with consummate cinematic mastery. The BBC
It was also voted best foreign-language film of 2006 by Newsweek, LA Weekly, Premiere, the New York Times and the New York Film Critics Circle.
Jean-Pierre Melville né Grumbach (1917-1973) entered the French Resistance in 1940 using the nom de guerre of Melville (after his favourite American author, Herman Melville. Three of his best known works were neo-noir crime films ; Le Doulos (1962) with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Le Samourai (1967) with Alain Delon and Le Cercle Rouge (1970) with Delon and Yves Montand.
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