Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows was ignored and dismissed when it was originally released in 1969. It was panned due mostly to backlash against the then President Charles de Gaulle. It was felt that the film protrayed him in a postive light and the French population was pretty pissed at de Gaulle over the May 1968 protests. It wasn’t until the film was rediscovered in 2006 that it was acknowledged as a masterpiece. It’s too bad that Melville passed away of a heart attack in 1973 at the age of 55 to enjoy that eventual acclaim.
Jean-Pierre Melville was a great French filmmaker whose gangster films are all classics. From the brilliant Bob le flambeur (1955), the very cool Le Doulos (1962), Le Deuxième Souffle (1966), the awesome Le Samouraï (1967), the brilliant heist film Le Cercle rouge (1970) and Un flic (1972).
Army of Shadows stands out from Melville’s usual work because it’s about the French Resistance during WWII but they act a lot like the gangsters in his other films. It’s also a very bleak and dark look at war and the Resistance. Lino Ventura stars as the head a small group of Resistance fighters. The film follows the group as they try to hide from the Nazis and deal with traitors within their cell.
When the film was re-released in 2006, it made 19 different critics best movie of the year lists.