Army in the Shadows (15)

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The Independent Culture

Melville's account of life in a French Resistance group is always compelling, and not without its share of heart-pumping action. Based on Joseph Kessel's novel and the director's own memories of the Resistance, it follows Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura), as he escapes from a prison camp in Vichy France, and redoubles his efforts for the cause, whether he's killing traitors or rescuing allies from the Gestapo. But it's not an adventure film. First released in 1969, Army in the Shadows is a series of unglamorous episodes that emphasises the slog and the sacrifice of the resisters' work. Gerbier is stout, middle-aged and bespectacled; his colleagues' arrests and executions are dealt with in very brief scenes, if they're shown at all. And the conspirators' fates are stated matter-of-factly in closing captions which are as chilling as the opening shot of Nazi troops marching past L'Arc de Triomphe. A classic film.

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