THE REEL LESS TRAVELED
When Jean-Pierre Melville’s film “Army of Shadows” was released in the U.S. in 2006, 37 years after being unjustly dismissed by French critics, it became an immediate classic. An almost clinical psychological study of the French Resistance during World War II (of which Melville was part), and based on Joseph Kessel’s novel, it chronicles stoic day-to-day perseverance in the face of Nazi occupation.
It’s only fitting that a film with “shadows” in the title would have outstanding cinematography and that a contemporary director of photography, Roger Deakins, Oscar-nominated for his work on “No Country for Old Men” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” would choose it as “The Movie That Inspired Me,” part of the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s ongoing series. The 35-millimeter restoration, supervised by “Shadows’ ” cinematographer, Pierre L'Homme, beautifully illuminates the film’s sublime tones.
Bathed in a melancholy half-light that evokes the indistinct world in which their characters operate, the cast -- Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Claude Mann -- carry out their assignments with the suspense of a Melville crime thriller, but at a pace that allows for reflection on the gravity of their deeds. Deakins and filmmaker Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”) will discuss “Army” when it screens Wednesday at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.