Army of Shadows is the Pick of the Week

A 1969 Jean-Pierre Melville classic starts off a new week of releases.
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Legendary director Jean-Pierre Melville was always adept at captureing humanity under devastating odds. Whether it was people trying to survive wartime (Le Silence De La Mer and Leon Morin, Priest), or the super dark and desparate lives of the gangster (Le Cercle Rouge, Le Doulos, and Le Samourai), Melville was definitely one of the masters of cinema, period. Perhaps the most stark and mercilessly personal of his work is his 1969 thriller, Army of Shadows, which arguably remains his magnum opus.

Based on his own experience in the French Resistance and the novel by Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour), the film signifies the tragic and dangerous struggles and sacrifices of ordinary underground fighters who are trying to retain their honor under Hitler's horrible reign. With an acclaimed cast of European legends including Lion Ventura, Paul Meuriss, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and the great Simone Signoret, a fantastic screenplay by Melvile himself, and shadowy cinematography by Pierre Lhomme, you get an amazing landmark of French cinema, and one of the finest anti-facist films ever made.

Originally OOP (out-of-print) for several years, but now rightly back in the Criterion Collection where it belongs, it contains the same but very worthwhile suppelments, including film scholar Ginette Vincendeau's 2006 commentary; interviews from 2007 with Lhomme and editor Francoise Bonnot; on-set footage and snippets from vintage interviews with Melville, cast members, Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters; Jean-Pierre Melville et "L'armee des ombres", a 2005 short program about Melville and the film; Le journal de la Resistance, a rare 1944 short doc filmed on the front lines of the final days of Germany's occupation of France; restoration demonstration by Lhomme; and trailers. Plus, a booklet with the essay by Amy Taubin, and for the Blu-ray only, a piece by historian Robert O. Paxton and excerpts from program Melville on Melville. Obviously, this is a must have, especially for those who didn't get the chance to own it the first time, and for film lovers in general.

Other releases:

Little Women (2019): Greta Gerwig's acclaimed adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic about the famed March sisters and their lives during the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer: Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, and Richard Cromwell play three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy, as well as themselves.

Beau Geste: Cooper returns as a man who leaves England in shame and joins the infamous French Foreign Legion. He finds his two brothers there, and together they face dangerous territory more from their evil commander than with the Arabs.

Heroes: Henry Winkler, Sally Field, and Harrison Ford star in this drama about a former soldier who finds optimism when he meets a young woman during a long bus ride.

Terror Train (Scorpion Releasing): The new Blu-ray release of the 1980 slasher cult classic starring Jamie Lee Curtis on a deadly train where one of her psychotic classmates makes it the very last ride for several of her friends.

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