2009 October 19 • Monday
The eighty-third Soundtrack of the Week is Eric Demarsan's score for Jean-Pierre Melville's L'Armée des Ombres (Army of Shadows).
Army of Shadows became one of my favorite movies when I saw it at MoMa about fifteen years ago. After that screening I watched it again on a bootleg videotape, recorded from British television, with at least one significant moment of violence apparently cut.
A few years ago Army of Shadows played at Film Forum in New York City, where I saw it at least twice. It's now a Criterion DVD.
I also read the original book on which the movie is based and to which it is gratifyingly faithful, not much of a surprise since Melville made his reputation by faithfully adapting a famous Resistance novel, Le Silence de la mer.
These days I find myself noting that I appreciate movies (and those few television programs) that are about the textures of lives. All of Melville's movies are "textural" in this way, but none more successfully than Army of Shadows which vividly presents the bafflingly unpredictable underworld which the Resistance inhabited. While the source novel presents much more detail about what the characters actually do, the movie transmits the feeling of the characters' world.
Eric Demarsan's score, unrelentingly doleful and yet somehow sweeping and stirring, is a perfect accompaniment to the visual action. The descending chromatic scale has never been more dramatic, pseudo-Bach organ writing never more moving and tremolo guitar never more unsettling.