Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


(aka 'VL'Armata degli eroi" or "Army of Shadows" or "Army in the Shadows" or "The Shadow Army')

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
France / Italy 1969

 

Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece about the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation went unreleased in the United States for thirty-seven years, before its triumphant theatrical debut in 2006. Atmospheric and gripping, Army of Shadows is Melville’s most personal film, featuring Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and the incomparable Simone Signoret as intrepid underground fighters who must grapple with their own brand of honor in their battle against Hitler's regime.

***

Jean-Pierre Melville's gripping adaptation of Joseph Kessel's seminal wartime novel has been praised as one of the greatest and the most authentic film portrayals of the French Résistance.

A personal project for over 25 years and drawing on his own experience of fighting for the Résistance, the film shares the existential themes of his gangster epics Le Samouraï and Le Cercle rouge and shows Melville's mastery of suspense.

Set between the Autumn of 1942 and February 1943, the film follows the story of a band of Résistance fighters living under German-controlled France. As the war continues, the grip of the occupying force tightens and friendships, trust and loyalty give way to secrecy, suspicion and loss.

A tribute to the heroic activities of the everyday members of the Résistance, L'Armée des ombres is a tense, atmospheric tour de force featuring powerful performances from Simone Signoret, Lino Ventura and Jean-Pierre Cassel, and a striking cameo from Serge Reggiani.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 12th, 1969

Reviews         More Reviews         DVD Reviews

 Comparison:

BFI - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

Coming out on Blu-ray in Germany in 2014:

Distribution

BFI Video

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine # 385

Region 1- NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 385

Region 'A'- Blu-ray

Runtime 2:18:50 (4% PAL Speedup) 2:25:00  2:25:15.540
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.64 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.60 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,641,044,296 bytes

Feature: 29,542,944,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.10 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  BFI

Bitrate: Criterion

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0)  French (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0)   DTS-HD Master Audio French 1994 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1994 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English (for feature dialogue and Commentary), None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Professor Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris (BFI)
• Le Journal de la Résistance (1945, 33 mins, b&w) - a rare documentary from the archive of the Imperial War Museum with English commentary by Noel Coward
• Rarely seen short film about Jean-Pierre Melville from 1968, with footage of him directing on set (4 mins, colour)
• Illustrated booklet including essay by Jean-Michel Frodon and a review of the film on its original release by Jean-Louis Comolli, both from Cahiers du cinéma magazine; director biography

DVD Release Date: November 27th, 2006

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 18

 

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Professor Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris
• Video interviews with Pierre Lhomme and editor Françoise Bonnot Archival video excerpts, including on-set footage and interviews with Melville, cast members, writer Joseph Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters
• Jean-Pierre Melville et "L'Armée des ombres" (2006), a short program on the director and his film
• Le journal de la Résistance (1944), a rare short documentary shot on the front lines of the final days of German-occupied France
• Film restoration demonstration by Pierre Lhomme
• Liner notes booklet featuring critic Amy Taubin, historian Robert Paxton, and excerpts from Rui Nogueira’s Melville on Melville 

DVD Release Date: May 15th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 27

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,641,044,296 bytes

Feature: 29,542,944,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.10 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Professor Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris
• Video interviews with Pierre Lhomme and editor Françoise Bonnot Archival video excerpts, including on-set footage and interviews with Melville, cast members, writer Joseph Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters
• Jean-Pierre Melville et "L'Armée des ombres" (2006), a short program on the director and his film
• Le journal de la Résistance (1944), a rare short documentary shot on the front lines of the final days of German-occupied France
• Film restoration demonstration by Pierre Lhomme

• Original French trailer followed by the US version (3:01)
• 44-page liner notes booklet featuring critic Amy Taubin, historian Robert Paxton, and excerpts from Rui Nogueira’s Melville on Melville 

Blu-ray Release Date: January 11th, 2011
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 26

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' Blu-ray December 10': With an obvious strong restored original source both DVDs of Melville's classic looked exquisite on the SD format and my expectations weren't too optimistic on advancing beyond their appearance. But, despite the more modest bitrate, the new Criterion Blu-ray looks magnificent and decidedly different than its lesser format counterparts. An attribute of comparative analysis is that it can help expose flaws that were otherwise imperceptible previously. While I don't imagine that either DVD edition had boosted colors or contrast - it appears that way with the tighter, more controlled color balance of the hi-def transfer. The Blu-ray looks a little brighter with a softer palette and this really benefits the film experience in my opinion. The improved visibility of grain structure, less noise (this is very noticeable) and overall stronger detail/sharpness make for a remarkable viewing. The DVDs both looks quite green beside the Blu-ray and without knowing which would be the more accurate appearance in relation to any theatrical look - the Blu-ray takes a surprising leap forward in over all appearance. Detail and grain are one thing but the vastly improved color balance (just look at skin tones) brings out so much more of the film comparatively making the DVDs that much flatter and video-like. Army of Shadows always impacts me - but never like this - and I credit the high-definition appearance. Wow - what a way to see this draining film in your own home.

Criterion, predictably, stay faithful with the audio rendering with the 2.0 channel stereo but now offered in a lossless DTS-HD Master at 1994 Kbps. The aggressive moments are infrequent but this solid track seems capable of handling anything thrown at it. The subtle sounds in quieter moments are what give Army of Shadows is suspenseful edge. Here they are exported flawlessly. Original music by Éric Demarsan is clean and crisp supporting the film's important moments with subtle intent. There are optional English subtitles and, predictably, my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

Extras are duplicated from the, same spine-numbered, Criterion DVD edition including the excellent commentary and with video portions in HD. I thought I had identified the addition of two trailers but see they exist on the first disc of the Criterion DVD. The liner notes are still there and I haven't identified anything missing.

It's just an incredible film elevating to essential viewing on Blu-ray. I can't really expand much more. It has our strongest recommendation. This masterpiece will never look or sound better for your home theater viewing. Buy with extreme confidence - you will never regret it. 

***

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 1- May 07': For most people I would say the differences between these two editions are inconsequential but, as expected, the Criterion nudges ahead in every area - if only to a small degree. Criterion have done some minor manipulation to the image - it is marginally brighter and black levels are likewise that much darker. Colors don't appear to have suffered in the process. Framing shows no variance but the Criterion has scenes that are slightly sharper. In essence I wouldn't complain about either edition's appearance - they both look marvelous from the newly restored print.

Criterion offers a stereo option as well as the original mono and the subtitle translation is slightly different in spots.

The BFI does have the feature of optional commentary subtitles - which I use and enjoy. I hope Criterion and other production companies adopt this function in the future.

Regarding the supplements - the commentary is duplicated (possibly the first time I recall Criterion using another edition's commentary track) and I'll repeat what I said about the BFI - "I really enjoyed Ginette Vincendeau's commentary (plus she has a beautiful voice and accent). She might be a little stiff, but expresses an extremely professional manner in her dissemination of information. She certainly knows her stuff - a joy to listen to." Also duplicated is the 30 minute Le journal de la Résistance from 1944 - a rare documentary from the archive of the Imperial War Museum with English commentary by Noel Coward .

Criterion adds some video interviews with Pierre Lhomme and editor Françoise Bonnot - archival video excerpts, including on-set footage and interviews with Melville, cast members, writer Joseph Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters. There is a short program included called Jean-Pierre Melville et "L'Armée des ombres" from 2006 - this is about 25 minutes. There is a film restoration demonstration by Pierre Lhomme and an excellent 44-page liner notes booklet featuring critic Amy Taubin, historian Robert Paxton, and excerpts from Rui Nogueira’s Melville on Melville. There are some beautiful color photos.

This is a fabulous historic film and I'd love to recommend the BFI based on what a complete DVD package that it is, but the truth is as well as Criterion eclipsing in every area - it is also cheaper after currency conversion. This makes the Criterion a must-have DVD. No question about it.

***

On the BFI: Wow... what a great DVD - a film I had not had the privilege to have ever seen before - from a director whose work I greatly admire. I anxiously stuck it in the player at very first opportunity (minutes after it arrived). A newly restored print, following its theatrical release by the BFI earlier this year looks absolutely stunning - Criterion-level in its contrast and pure film feel with Melville's typical dark browns, blues and greens. Dim, as intended, and very sharp with great shadow detail. First rate image.

I really enjoyed Ginette Vincendeau's commentary (plus she has a beautiful voice and accent). She might be a little stiff, but expresses an extremely professional manner in her dissemination of information. She certainly knows her stuff - a joy to listen to.

Other digital supplements include a 33 minute featurette - Le Journal de la Résistance shot in 1945 - a rare documentary from the archive of the Imperial War Museum with English commentary by Noel Coward, plus a rarely seen short film about Jean-Pierre Melville from 1968, with footage of him directing on set (French with English subtitles). Finally a wonderful illustrated 20-page booklet including an essay by Jean-Michel Frodon and a review of the film on its original release by Jean-Louis Comolli, both from Cahiers du cinéma magazine. Incredible work by BFI - I am thrilled with this DVD - another in the list of strong candidates for Feature DVD of the Month 

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



DVD Menus

 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1- NTSC RIGHT)


 

 

Criterion - Disc 2

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (NOTE: Extra duplicated form the Criterion DVD)


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

BFI Commentary Subtitle Sample

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


DVD Box Cover

Coming out on Blu-ray in Germany in 2014:

Distribution

BFI Video

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine # 385

Region 1- NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 385

Region 'A'- Blu-ray




 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!