on 18 April 2010
Well-acted and reasonably historically accurate, Army of Crime portrays the creation of a resistance group in World War Two Paris. The first act of the film shows us the motivations, reservations and hesitations of the men and women who eventually formed a resistance group composed mainly of immigrants. Once they start to attack the German occupiers, the film becomes more of a war adventure movie. The film does not shy away from the ruthless activities of the Paris Police's "Brigade Speciale", formed to track down communists and resiters, and most of the police characters were real policemen. Nor does Army of Crime gloss over the indiscipline and naivety of the resistants and their consequences.
Overall, an excellent depiction of the heroic immigrants and outcasts who fought and died for France, and the French "patriots" who hunted them down, tortured them and then handed them over to the Germans for execution or deportation to Buchenwald and Auschwitz. What lifts the film above similar wartime dramas is the character of Missak Manouchian, the leader of the group, who wrote in a letter to his wife, written form a Gestapo prison cell "I have no hate for the German people".
on 22 May 2010
The army of crime, relates about a not so glorious time in French history and sets a precedent in showing the active collaboration of the French police during the Nazis occupation. The story follows Missak Manouchian, a poet and Armenian refugee setting up a group of resistants made up of young migrants who settled in France because it was the country of human rights, or so they thought.
Until recently French history books had omitted to mention the role of the French police collaborating with the Nazis, in 1995 Président Jacques Chirac acknolewdged their responsibility in deporting jews during the Second World War. Robert Guediguian has put his soul in this film and even if we know the outcome, it is difficult not to get attached to his characters. Those young men and Olga Bancic the only woman in the group were full of dreams, ready to sacrifice their life for their adopted country, they didnt flinch or hesitate killing to make an impact. Simon Akbarian and Virginie Ledoyen the main characters, are very convincing, as are Robinson Stevenin and the other actors.
I felt completly moved by this story who took place more than 70 years ago, their bravoury could have been relegated to a distant past, thanks to Robert Guediguian they will become part of our memory.
on 29 March 2010
This is a very enjoyable World War II adventure movie; featuring a story about the French resistance. It is made up of the usual elements that a good movie needs to succeed - action, romance, colour and excitement. The backdrop to the bulk of the story is Paris; the sight of which is bound to be a crowd pleaser in its own right. An efficient movie therefore; Hollywood by the Seine so to speak.
What makes this movie unusual is the nature of the resistance group portrayed here. It is composed of immigrants, refugees and the descendants of such. Classed by the puppet Vichy regime as aliens some French Jews take up arms to fight the Nazis and their Vichy allies. Italian and Spanish anti-fascist refugees join their ranks as do other groups amongst them French citizens of Polish and Armenian descent. Outraged at the occupation of their adoptive homeland and at the sight of French police and civil servants cravenly doing the bidding of their Nazi overlords these "outsiders" take up arms to attempt to restore the lost honour of France. The Vichy regime sneeringly refers to them as a bandit group, an army of crime, whose actions no true Frenchman could support.
What makes the film even more fascinating is that it is based, with a little fictionalisation, on real life events. The French police, as directed by Vichy, rounded up Jews - French Jews as well as Jewish citizens of other states on the run in France from the Nazis - plus anti-Nazi refugees from other occupied states and handed them over to the Nazis. All this voluntarily, without the need for a demand, or even a request, from the occupying Germans. Vichy's political police are seen here being congratulated by a senior SS officer for their skills in torturing prisoners- skills, he states, which made the SS look like amateurs!
All true, every last word of it. Robert Guediguian, the producer of this movie, chose to make this film in order to make these facts more widely known. There is an excellent interview with the producer included as an extra on this disc where he goes into the actual background history to the story in some depth. A very good film. Not only hugely enjoyable but a fascinating insight into a troubled period of history; a period where a group of people denounced by their own goverment as rootless foreign criminals and terrorists showed themselves to be some of the most patriotic Frenchmen of all.
The camera pans slowly from face to face...22 men and one woman. Some look out the window of the transport they're seated in. Some seem angry, others resigned. As the camera pauses at each face, the person's name comes up, followed by "Died for France." The time is 1944. They are the members of the French Resistance, the Manouchian Group. Many of them seem very young. In a few hours the men will be executed by a German firing squad. The woman will be taken to Germany where she will be beheaded with an axe.
Army of Crime tells the story of this group. They all lived in the same Paris neighborhood. Missak Manouchian, an Armenian, a poet and an intellectual, a man who was first ready to die but not to kill, becomes their leader. He learns to kill very well. The group is made of Frenchmen, Italians, Poles, Armenians, Spaniards, Hungarians and Romanians. All are Communists. Many are Jews. Hours before his death, Manouchian wrote this passage in a letter to his wife:
"My dear Melinée, my beloved little orphan,
In a few hours I will no longer be of this world. We are going to be executed today at 3:00. This is happening to me like an accident in my life; I don't believe it, but I nevertheless know that I will never see you again. What can I write you? Everything inside me is confused, yet clear at the same time.
I joined the Army of Liberation as a volunteer, and I die within inches of victory and the final goal. I wish for happiness for all those who will survive and taste the sweetness of the freedom and peace of tomorrow. I'm sure that the French people, and all those who fight for freedom, will know how to honor our memory with dignity. At the moment of death, I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people, or for anyone at all; everyone will receive what he is due, as punishment and as reward. The German people, and all other people, will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all ... I have one profound regret, and that's of not having made you happy; I would so much have liked to have a child with you, as you always wished. So I'd absolutely like you to marry after the war, and, for my happiness, to have a child and, to fulfill my last wish, marry someone who will make you happy..."
How did it come to this? Some young men in Manouchian's neighborhood, infuriated by the arrogance and injustice of the German occupiers, began finding ways to strike back...shooting down German officers, throwing a grenade, leaving a crude bomb. Manouchian, once arrested by the French police and tortured, was released. He could see that organizing a group with selected targets would be more effective than individual and uncoordinated strikes. He was encourage to do this by the senior leaders of the Resistance, all Communists, too. Before long, the Manouchian Group was blowing up troop trains, killing quantities of Germans in broad daylight, even assassinating a German general.
The group was slowly hunted down... not by Germans, but by the collaborating French police. (Himmler sent praise to them after they rounded up thousands of Jews and departed them east. His praise? That not a single German soldier was needed. The French police did it all.)
Army of Crime concentrates on perhaps a dozen of the members, and we get to know well three or four of them. The movie is tense and intense as they plot, kill and put not only themselves at risk but also their mothers and fathers. The movie also is disturbing, in that it tells a story that for years the French did not want to face up to. Those pursing the Manouchian Group were French policemen. Those who captured the members were French policemen. All were tortured, by French policemen. They were turned over for execution to the Germans by French policemen.
After the members of the Manouchian Group were shot, German propagandists blanketed France with red posters showing their faces, listing their "crimes" and calling the group just an "army of crime."
Two things remain in my mind after watching this movie. First, how brave ordinary people can be when faced with brutality and injustice. Second, how easily it can be for some police forces to see their job not as protecting the people and insuring that justice has a chance to work, but of protecting the status quo, of beating, spraying and imprisoning those who are considered by their leaders as not being docile enough or who simply exercise their rights.
Among the many fine actors are Simon Abkarian as Missak Manouchian and Virginie Ledoyan as his wife, Melinee. Robert Guediguian is the director.
on 30 December 2010
If nothing else this film is a good reconstruction of the events and persons involved in the French resistance, based on true events and people,and is a salute to their bravery and resolve. It is rather luxuriantly shot, which is a little bemusing and detracts slightly from the period feel which might have been evoked better perhaps by using a grainier effect, as in 'Saving Private Ryan', for example. There are moments of tension as one wonders what is going to happen to various people, but no character ever seems to be portrayed in any particularly great depth, so it is difficult to empathise with them. Towards the end I had rather hoped that the police inspector was going to become more rounded as a character, but unfortunately this potentially promising avenue remained largely unexplored.
I could watch it more than once.
A film about a group of young boys/men fleeing tyrany and who ended up in Paris at the time of the German occupation. The film then vividly portrays the collaboration of the French police. It is as much about them, as it is about the "resistance."
France was one of a handful of occupied nations that created a government that actively collaborated with the German war machine. As the film highlights it set 600,000 to Germany to work the factories freeing up more Germans to fight in the various "fronts." France was not so much occupied but engaged in working alongside the National Socialist Cause and whilst De Gaulle was promoted in Britain as the voice of France in reality Petain, Laval, Doriot and the rest of the regime were those who were the real government and army of France.
The French as depicted in the film were involved in the round up and internment of people at Drancy, a type of "Barbican complex" handed over to incarcerating Jews before deporting them to Poland. "The Round Up" shows what happened with the Velodrome round up.
The film works from two angles, the young men who coalesced in acts of "terror" or resistance depending on whose side you are on. Then there are the French Police who instigate their own war of terror on "Jews and Communists." Thye are avid and keen adherents to their masters cause. It highlights the psychology of power as France who invented "nationalism" could easily shed it to become a vassal. This is the terror within the film. Whereas in Poland the state of defiance and everyday resistance created an everyday barrier to operating a Quisling government, here we see the product of acquiescence.
The resistance are a mixture of Spanish, Italian Communists and young Jews from all over Europe who take on the war machine and inevitably from the start are doomed. The film however is about how they expand from small acts to larger ones and how they are undone.
There is enough killing within the film if that is your "bag" but the film concentrates on the terror of everyday existence, of perpetually living in fear and exhileration from one moment to the next.
As the war becomes more distant the act of cowardice can now be easier shown, as previously the myth making required France to have been devoured by Germans instead of seeking their overlordship.
This highlights the power of belief to transcend an immediate situation and to take enormous risks. There is the history lesson.
on 30 January 2016
Very good insight into Paris during the war. If you have an interest in this topic of history, i.e. the Resistance, then this is a good film to watch. It is not afraid to explore the French roll in collaborating with the Nazis. In one scene the SS officer was commending the French special investigator for his methods and tactics saying the Nazis had 'much to learn' - certainly a very challenging part of the film to watch. The film also portrays the Holocaust at a very personal level, and shows how uncomfortably easy the round ups were. Seeing families moved through the Paris streets in local busses really hit home. Superb plot and acting and a suitable film commemorating the deportations and brave actions of this aspect of the Resistance.
on 5 April 2010
Over the last few years, French cinema has turned out some very impressive was films such as "Days of Glory" and "Intimate enemies" but attempts to attempts to make a film about the occupation of france have either resulted in the family drama "A secret" or the enjoyable hokum of "Female agents." "Army of crime" addresses the balance and the tone of the film is set during the opening credits as a narrative of foriegn names followed by "Mort pour la France" accompanies the footage of a bus load of prisoners being taken to their execution.
Based upon the true story of a gang of immigrants, Jews, former International Brigade members from the Spanish Civil War and Communists, this film reflects the more small scale attempts at sabotage the Germans and the assassination of the occupiers with pistols at close range. The film is disturbing insofar that the more evil characters are the all too willing French collaborators whether they are police officers or simply neighbours in an apartment. Although slightly over long, the characters , once they have established themselves, all have interesting stories and the variety of sub-plots make the film extremely interesting. The action scenes are brief and the director cleverly allows a distinction to be made between the cold, passionless executions by the young swimming champion and those for whom killing does not come so easy. For me, the striking thing about the film was the way that it seemed all too contemporary. Whilst the historic detail was not compromised, the story is played across a background of everyday life where French and German's socialise and the occupiers are friendly and curtious. I think this film has resonnance today for readers of newspapers like the Daily Mail and the hostility they display towards immigrants. Indeed , it is the members of this gang who are the only ones to show any socila conscience.
In summary, I think the negative remarks about this film made by other reviewers totally miss the point. This is a true story that deserves re-telling and I think that the film does a brilliant job of judging the fine line between the morality of killing in the name of freedom and what some of the characters in the film perceive to be terrorism. The action scenes are brief and admittedly it does miss a lot of the excitment of the brilliant Danish film "Flame and Citron" which covers much of the same ground albeit exploiting the political ambiguity of the protagonists. "Army of crime" is a much more low key film set at a slower pace but still manages to pack a sombere messageand whilst I think the other film is better, this remains the best film about the French Resistance I have seen. Ignore the other reviewers' comments about lack of action / German soldiers, this still remains a piece of intelligent and quality film-making. Recommended.
on 28 March 2010
This film is brilliant. It's about the story of the French Resistance and how they helped defeat the Germans during World War 2. The film is naturally in French which is better considering the film is about the French. What is also really good about this film is that they employed french, german, polish and an albanian to play their respective characters and gives a deeper feeling to the film. There is nothing worse then using an American to play a frenchie or an aggressive German - it doesn't work! This film is so good that it runs alongside the great war films such as Saving Private Ryan or The Pianist.
on 25 February 2010
The film is ok ,it is a period setting with good attention to detail, however for me this is where it takes too long. Any feeling of angst/danger or indeed as the title suggests crime ie subversion against the vermacht takes a long long time to happen.The film takes for ever and a day allowing us to get to know the various characters in the film. Great but hardly mesmerising you can literally make three cups of tea oh and a coffee before anything of note actually happens.However once the crime begins as it where the story is given full acountability by excellent acting and suitable sub plots. Moreover having been given this inordinate ammount of time to connect with the French underground characters one is genuinely moved by the barbaric treatment and betrayal of thier fellow Frenchman. Ultimately a poignant movie that is worth watching and retells a very important message.