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Army of Crime
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10 from votes
Release: 16 September 2009 (France) /

Army of Crime

Genre: Drama, History, War
Director: Serge Le Péron,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: The poet Missak Manouchian leads a mixed bag of youngsters and immigrants in a clandestine battle against the Nazi occupation. Twenty-two men and one woman fighting for an ideal and for freedom. News of their daring attacks, including the assassination of an SS general, eventually reaches Berlin. Written by American Film Market

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Critic Reviews

Paris in the sunshine... through meshed windows. Several normal-looking men and women travelling in a grilled bus. A woman sees another woman wheeling a pram along a promenade, she wonders aloud whether the pram contains bombs. On a boating lake a man is scratching away on a sketch pad whilst his paramour drapes alluringly in the prow. He's not sketching her though, we cut to the pad and see that he's a pamphleteer. "Fair is foul and foul is fair" is the view we are given in this short space of time at the start of Army of Crime, Robert Guédiguian's vital new movie.

Marcel Ophüls' 1969 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity is all anyone needs to see to comprehend the loathsome extent to which the government in France (uniquely) collaborated with murderous fascists. However folks are no longer keen on seeing four hour long black and white documentaries what with their absence of music video effects and popular music and such. So Guédiguian has revived the history, and not just for revival's sake, also to counter contemporary anti-immigrant prejudice. Whilst the naturalised French, in large proportion failed to resist the Nazis, many French immigrants on the other hand laid down their lives in the Communist resistance. By contrast, the low point of the entire collaboration was when a twentieth century French police force decided to resurrect the Carthaginian traditions of mass child sacrifice, and chose as their Tophet, the Velodrome d'Hiver. Without the help of a single Wehrmacht soldier, SS soldier, or Gestapo thug, the French police rounded up 13,000 Jewish souls including 4,000 children, who were then shipped off to Auschwitz. Against these existential lepers of the Gendarmerie stood Missak Manouchian and his band of fighters (the FTP-MOI), many of whom had already fought the tide of fascism in Spain.

Manouchian is a very interesting character who perhaps received the most character development of all the fighters. He was an Armenian refugee, who survived the Armenian Genocide, which was perpetrated by the Ottoman Army. Out of the silence that followed his terrifying experiences grew his poetry, which was beautiful (based on the example we see in the film). He has to take two key compromises during the film. In order to escape from a camp of hostages, he has to sign a document declaring that he is not a communist. Initially he refuses to sign, but in order to live he eventually does. The second key compromise is when he agrees to kill even though he does not believe in killing, calling it "unethical". It is very difficult for the fighters, they are so full of life, they decide that they must be the enemies of the enemies of life.

Please note that there is a scene of gruelling torture in this film, committed of course by the French police.

It's one of those rare films that is actually edifying, where you come out with a will to live, a will to do right, and a will to speak out against racial intolerance. It is the polar opposite of the crass and odious Inlgorious Basterds, still playing at the cinema, and attracting over a hundred times more spectators.

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