Tag Archives: Maquis

A Week In Film #073: More war

Zvezda
A pretty decent lost patrol war flick by Nikolai Lebedev set during Operation Bagration, when the Red Army drove back the Germans from Belarus and across Poland towards the end of WW2.

A small band of Soviet reconnaissance scouts slips behind enemy lines to examine plans for a counter-offensive; naturally it’s an ethnically-diverse bunch, each with their own special skill, too. The mildly romantic sub-plot with the young radio operator seems rather redundant, though.

Katyń
Andrzej Wajda’s somewhat disappointing picture about the massacre of thousands of Polish officers in the forest at Katyń. Muddled, with extravagant attention spent on costumes and set dressing but less so on emotion or narrative.

L’Armée Des Ombres
Jean-Pierre Melville’s brooding, dark, almost entirely flash-bang-wallopless tale of wartime French resistance under German occupation and Vichy capitulation.

Lino Ventura is very good as Gerbier, the apparently mild-mannered engineer heading up a Gaullist cell. Taking in arrest, escape, killing and capture once more, the story moves along at a plodding pace, but the film is greater for that, because it gives the audience time to consider what they are seeing, the moral choices, the real-feeling decisions that must be made. The scenes in London – when Gerbier goes to consult with France Libré headquarters – are the least convincing; the film does best when it is ambling nervously through claustrophobic Marseilles alleyways and motoring desperately across roads through open countryside. Sound very atmospheric sound design, too.

Romanzo Criminale
Super-slick, but not particularly enjoyable, Italian crime drama about a bunch of suburban hoods who decide to take over the Rome underworld in the 70s.

What could have been masterful, weaving in the Strategy of Tension/Year of Lead, bent politicians and corrupt cops, the Italian parastate and the Italian extended family, fascist terrorism and red terror, masonic conspiracy and Mafia crime rings, is instead an uninspiring mess. It’s Guy Ritchie directs from a Jake Arnott story, with traditional Italian film industry values prevailing – yes, really that bad. Plus there’s a very unpleasant streak of misogyny running through its length. Oh, and some appalling editing, poor shot selection, wipes that obscure everything that’s happening, superfluous scenes, framing which excludes vital visual elements, a dulled sense of pacing… And whilst my Italian is nothing to boast about, even I can detect wooden delivery and woeful dialogue.

A shame, because there is so much rich material to mine here. Director Michele Placido clearly has skills of some description, it’s just baffling why he doesn’t exercise them competently or artistically. Pierfrancesco Favino is pretty good as angry gang leader Lebanese, though (in keeping with the rest of the charactisations) it’s never really clear why he is so angry.

Barbarians At The Gate
The exciting world of leveraged buy-outs in this witty HBO film about the Nabisco LBO, with James Garner. Mildly diverting.