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Army of Shadows

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Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 thriller about the French resistance, finally receiving its first U.S. release, is a great film but also one of the most upsetting films I know. Melville based his story on a novel by Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour) that was published during the occupation and is reportedly far more optimistic; in the movie a resistance leader (Lino Ventura) gradually discovers that he and his comrades must betray their own humanity for the sake of their struggle, though in the end their efforts are mainly futile. As Dave Kehr wrote, "Melville is best known for his philosophical pastiches of American gangster films (Le Samourai, Le Doulos), and some of their distinctive rhythms—aching stillness relieved by sharp flurries of action—survive here." With Simone Signoret (in one of her best performances), Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Serge Reggiani. In French with subtitles. 145 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Fri-Sun 5/26-5/28 and Tue-Thu 5/30-6/1, Music Box.

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