Once again, I’ll say that I’m a documented fan of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds… at least, the Cannes cut. I haven’t seen the U.S. theatrical cut, so I dunno if what you’re gonna see this weekend is something I’d consider to be better or worse. Maybe I’ll get around to seeing it soon, but I’m leaving the country this weekend so it will have to wait. What I do know is this: if you have an urge to see a smart and violent depiction of the French resistance during WWII, you better make sure you see Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 masterpiece Army of Shadows (which you can see right this minute on Amazon VOD).
Recently unearthed for proper American distribution, this is the ultimate screen portrayal of (as Basterds promises) “once upon a time… in Nazi-occupied France.” A taut, brilliant and altogether impressive piece of filmmaking, Army of Shadows takes you into the dramatic turmoil that existed during a period that Basterds, while entertaining, merely uses as a template for fantasy. It’s worth watching if only for one of the most suspenseful scenes in cinematic history: when a group of rebels must find a quiet way to execute a prisoner. That’s the kind of set piece that Tarantino aims to accomplish, but that Shadows delivers with grace.