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Army of Shadows(1969)
The film follows a band of resistance fighters in German-controlled France. As the war continues, the grip of the occupying force tightens, and friendships, loyalty and trust give way to suspicion, secrecy and loss.
For more about Army of Shadows and the Army of Shadows Blu-ray release, see Army of Shadows Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 17, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Paul Crauchet, Serge Reggiani
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
» See full cast & crew
Army of Shadows Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 17, 2013
Jean-Pierre Melville's "L'armée des ombres" a.k.a "Arny of Shadows" (1969) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal. The only supplemental feature on the disc is Dominique Maillet's three-part documentary film "Army of Shadows...The Hidden Side of the Story". Also included with this release is an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Prof. Ginette Vincendeau. In French, with optional English, German, and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
France, 1942. Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura, 125 rue Montmartre, Le Deuxieme Souffle), a civil engineer and one of the leaders of "Army of Shadows" (the French Resistance), is sent to a concentration camp where he meets a young communist who offers to help him escape. He accepts the offer. Shortly after, Philippe is arrested and transported to Hotel Majestic, the Gestapo headquarters in Paris.
Philippe manages to escape. A few days later, the traitor is located and taken to an abandoned house where he is tied to an old chair. A man grabs his legs, while another gags him. The second man then strangles him. The body is wrapped up in a blanket and left to rot. Before they leave, the men in the room agree that what they've just done was absolutely necessary.
Back on the streets of Paris, Gestapo and the Vichy police begin tracking down Philippe's men. Some panic and leave, but new men join "Army of Shadows".
Philippe is asked to accompany the most important man (Paul Meurisse, Les diaboliques) in "Army of Shadows" to London, where members of the British government are expecting him. The two board a submarine that takes them away.
Meanwhile, Gestapo captures one of Philippe's best men, Felix (Paul Crauchet, Dernier domicile connu). When the news reaches London, Philippe immediately packs his bags and heads back to France. Assisted by a woman named Mathilde (Simone Signoret, Room at the Top), the veteran fighter "Le Bison" (Christian Barbier, Le franciscain de Bourges), and the ambitious "Le Masque" (Claude Mann, La baie des anges), Philippe draws up an ambitious plan to rescue Felix.
Army of Shadows is directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, whose Bob le Flambeur (1956), Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966), Le Samourai (1967), and Le Cercle Rouge (1970) are amongst the greatest gangster films ever made. It is based on the novel by Joseph Kessel, whose famous Belle de Jour was also adapted and made into a marvelous film directed by the legendary Luis Bunuel.
Army of Shadows is about real heroes who look like real people. They are men and women from various social classes and cultural backgrounds. Many of them are weak and indecisive. Almost all of them are afraid to die. The focus of attention is on their thoughts and feelings, rather than their clashes with the enemy. Naturally, the best scenes in Melville's film are dialog-free - these are the moments where the heroes question themselves or begin collapsing under the enormous pressure of the environment they have been placed in. Some become traitors; others opt for the cyanide capsule.
The film is dark, cold, and infused with fatalism. Like Melville's Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge, it is also firmly controlled - everything happens in a methodical fashion and for a good reason, though not everything immediately makes sense to the viewer. What does is that the heroes are fighting a strange war, and at least for the duration of the film their side isn't winning.
Note: Army of Shadows was screened theatrically in the United States for the first time in 2006.
Army of Shadows Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal.
The high-definition transfer uses as a foundation the same restoration of Army of Shadows which Criterion had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of this classic French film for the U.S. market. The color-schemes of the two releases, however, are not identical. Greens and yellows are marginally stronger here, while on the Criterion release the reds appear to have been elevated (I have included a number of different screencaptures for you to compare, but take a look at screencapture #13 and screencapture #2 from our review of the Criterion release where some of the discrepancies are very easy to see). Brightness levels, however, are virtually identical on the two releases. There are no obvious discrepancies in the contrast settings either. Generally speaking, detail and depth are again very pleasing, even during the many nighttime sequences. There are no traces of problematic deraining corrections, though during the restoration process some careful noise reduction was likely performed. With a few minor exceptions (see the light artifacts in screencapture #4), compression is good. When projected, the film also remains tight around the edges. Lastly, there are no large debris, cuts, damage marks, or warps to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Army of Shadows Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, StudioCanal have provided optional English, German, and French SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The French audio track is excellent. I ran a few quick tests with the lossless track from the Criterion release and could not hear any discrepancies. The scene where Philippe Gerbier jumps from the plane and later into the film the execution scene sound exactly the same. The dialog is crisp, very clean, stable, and easy to follow. The English translation is excellent (but the English subtitles are a little bit smaller than those on the Criterion release).
Army of Shadows Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Army of Shadows Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
StudioCanal's release of Jean-Pierre Melville's classic film Army of Shadows is an excellent alternative to Criterion's Region-A "locked" release. However, there are some discrepancies in the color-schemes of the two releases, which is rather surprising. At this point I tend to prefer the color-scheme of the StudioCanal release, but more than likely there will be some interesting debates in the future as to whether or not it is the more accurate one. This release also comes with an excellent documentary film by Dominique Maillet. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Army of Shadows Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Army of Shadows Joins the StudioCanal Collection (Updated) - March 4, 2013
StudioCanal has announced that it will release on Blu-ray director Jean-Pierre Melville's L'armée des ombres a.k.a Army of Shadows (1969), starring Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, and Jean-Pierre Cassel. The release will be available for purchase online and in shops ...
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