The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon."A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
With Alain Delon, Michel Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Juliette Bert, Massimo Girotti, Suzanne Flon.
In occupied France during the Second World War, an antique collector of Alsatian descent, Mr. Klein, is mistakenly taken for a Jew and mercilessly tracked down by the Gestapo…
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Alain Delon stars as the eponymous protagonist in Joseph Losey's first French film, Mr. Klein. Living a posh life amid the chaos and turmoil of Nazi-occupied Paris, Mr. Klein makes his living buying art at cutthroat rates from desperate Jews fleeing the country. When a Jewish newspaper is mistakenly addressed to him, Klein learns of the existence of another, Jewish Mr. Klein. Klein reports the irregularity to the police, only to find himself further implicated in intrigue and danger. Embarking on a desperate search for his namesake, Klein visits his apartment and intercepts a secret invitation, bringing him into contact with the other Klein's world--and lover (played by Jeanne Moreau). Sinking into a paranoid fervor, Klein becomes a detective, searching for any evidence of the other Klein's whereabouts. As the Nazis close in and his double continues to elude him, the very name Mr. Klein, echoing sinisterly throughout the film, becomes a talisman of fear and panicked guilt. The secret societies and poisoned atmosphere of Vichy France come to life as Mr. Klein's Kafkaesque nightmare leads him unwittingly into a startled appreciation of the plight of the persecuted. Losey's restrained direction matched with Delon's emotive presence combine to create a powerful psychological and moral thriller.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 2, 8 pm: L'armée des ombres / Army of Shadows (1969) written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville – 150 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ War. English subtitles.
With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani.
In 1942 during World War II, a few men and women risked their lives to liberate France. The “Shadows Army” is an evocation of an important period of the “Resistance” such as J.P. Melville experienced himself.
– Alliance description
Well-known for his influential crime films (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge), director Jean-Pierre Melville explores the lives of French Resistance fighters in his moody World War II masterpiece, Army of Shadows. Restrained and controlled, the film follows Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) and other members of the underground as they carry out clandestine missions against Nazi occupiers. And while there are some exciting scenes (air drops, escape attempts), the film largely avoids action-film histrionics. Its tone is a subdued one and tension results from its quiet moments, interrupted by brief, jarring violence. This is appropriate, given the film's subject matter. Silence is the guiding principle of espionage and the film's look--bruised and penumbral--reflects the tenuous position of its characters, who live divided, imperiled existences. There is no glib heroism in Army of Shadows; there are only people living through untenable situations, acting as is necessary and sacrificing, perhaps, everything.
filmsdefrance.com, James Travers:In this film, director Jean-Pierre Melville draws on his own war-time experiences to paint a vivid and realistic picture of life in the French Resistance during the Second World War. The film has more of the feel of a documentary than a traditional action movie. As a result, the central characters have great depth and their heroism lies not in fool-hardy acts of bravado but in their dogged determination (a) to oppose the Nazi occupiers and (b) just simply to survive.
Melville’s style fits the film well. Better known for his gangster films, the same sense of a clandestine underworld is entirely appropriate for depicting the activities of the French Resistance. However, unlike in Melville’s other films, there is no sense of moral ambiguity. The Nazis are clearly the villains of the piece; the Resistance are the heroes. Even when the Resistance members are having to dispose of their own kind, they are shown in a positive light, clearly tormented by the action they have to take.
The central characters are well drawn and would stand up well, even if they were not portrayed by some of France’s great acting talents. Lino Ventura dominates the film as Gerbier, with a performance that is alternately severe and warm, reflecting possibly a character who is naturally warm but who has become cold and severe through his Resistance work. With the incomparable Simone Signoret and Paul Merisse also prominent in his line-up, Melville reinforces a winning hand, and is amply rewarded. This is a film about individuals, about their personal quandaries and agonies during a period of crises. With such a strong cast, Melville could hardly have failed.
By avoiding spectacle and concentrating on small, individual acts of heroism, Melville’s portrayal of life in the French Resistance is perhaps one of the most accurate depicted in film to date. Melville’s attention to detail is often quite staggering – whether it be in the emotional responses of characters to their predicament, or in the faultless photography and set design. The whole film has a feeling of genuineness that is pretty rare in films of this genre, and the film is all the better for that.