2007_05_arts_armyshadowsdvd.jpgArmy of Shadows
(directed by Jean Pierre Melville)

Only in New York: one of the best reviewed movies last year by local critics was a little drama about the French Resistance originally made in 1969 called Army of Shadows. Loads of screenings over multiple limited runs during the course of 2006 at Film Forum sold out, as flocks of New York film geeks rushed to see this flick which had never been released before in the U.S. Now the Criterion Collection has released a new DVD version of this movie which the New York Times' Manohla Dargis called the best movie of 2006, from the print restored by Rialto. Director Jean-Pierre Melville's starkly emotional and striking work was a favorite of the French New Wave and regulars at the Cinémathèque Française, and it's not hard to see why. All of his movies have real flare. They make you want to speak in a gruff voice and aloofly blow cigarette smoke in someones eyes. In Army of Shadows his characters aren't cool detectives or thieves like in the also excellent Le Samouraï or Le Cercle Rouge, but down-and-dirty Resistance fighters struggling against the Nazis. They make tough choices and aren't always admirable, though the complexities of their lives are incredibly human. As Dargis wrote in her initial review of the film, "You can get lost in the blackness of its heart and its shadows. You might never come back."

Other new DVDs gracing shelves this week include Hugh Jackman wooing Rachel Weisz across time in The Fountain, Spanish Fascists and magical creatures in Pan's Labyrinth, elves living in a boy's garden in Arthur and the Invisibles and African American frats dancing up a storm in Stomp the Yard.