Monday, 23 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969: Lino Ventura in Army of Shadows

Lino Ventura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philippe Gerbier in Army of Shadows.

Army of Shadows is a most intriguing film depicting the inner workings of the French resistance during World War II.

Army of Shadows, which incidentally took until 2006 to find a U.S. release even finding itself high up on many critics' top tens that year, takes the approach of narrowly following a few members of the French resistance that operated in the darkness. The primary figure focused upon, although not the only one, is Philippe Gerbier played Ventura. The film opens as he is being sent off to an internment camp for problematic French although a camp that seems almost a safety measure to stop them from being further along to Nazis control. The film at first even seems as though it may be about Phillipe's life in the camp. Ventura plays his role as particularly unassuming as he portrays Phillipe as very much a calculated man who in no way seems fearful of what the camp has to offer. Ventura presents basically Philippe as a man in wait just examining his surroundings and waiting for his chance to escape. Ventura supports properly what his character does as eventually Phillipe takes action which involves fatally stabbing a guard then proceeding to run as fast he can back into the city to hide.

After his successful escape Phillipe first course of action is to work with a few of his fellow resistance members to execute a traitor in their midst. Ventura keeps essentially the same reserve for much of his performance which works in creating the way Phillipe operates as a man. Ventura's whole approach works in that he establishes the manner in which Phillipe deals with the fact that they must resort to rather extreme and shadowy methods to maintain their organization. Ventura expresses through Phillipe as a man who is always somewhat aloof in his manner. It is not that he does not care, but rather Ventura shows that he is basically trained himself to not care. This gives sense to the essentially heartless way he goes about the killing of the man as he and his associates openly discuss the manner in which to kill the man who is well in earshot. Ventura's performance realizes the nature of the man that likely he has realized over some time which is that he never has too much of a connection to anything, which allows him to make the tough decisions required to maintain their resistance.

Although I don't hesitate in anyway to name Ventura as lead, the film does focus on several individuals in the organization sometimes moving with them instead of Phillipe as it examines the various tasks each person must take, and how they react to their responsibility as well as deal with the constant threat of death and torture. The film always comes back to Ventura's Phillipe who acts as a steadfast individual within the group. Ventura always keeps a certain level of cold detachment. It is not even though he acts inhuman, but rather he presents him as a man who very much knows his duty following it without much hesitation. Even when he stays over in London briefly for supplies Ventura still presents Phillipe as determined and staying very much heavy with responsibility. Ventura's quite good though in portraying as the method of still essentially a normal man in a particularly intense situation. Ventura still has some very well handled subtle moments such as his quiet fear when he must reluctantly jump out of a plane to return to France. All of these moments are well momentary as Ventura presents him as fixed in his path.

Ventura's emotional moments are sparse and even then they are all that emotional. Some of the more emotional moments Ventura allows is when he reacts with a great deal of happiness from a surprise visit from the head of the organization, or when he portrays a blunt dismay when one of the most brilliant operators has made a foolish mistake that leaves them all potentially compromised. Ventura snaps in and out even in these cases he still keeps Phillipe only just barely losing his manner. It is interesting in that technically his most volatile scene is when captured and set up with others prisoners to run from gunfire by guards as a sick game, the scene ends up about being unemotional. Ventura stays steadfast, and convincingly so as he almost botches a rescue attempt by bothering to maintain his reserve as he at first refuses to run from the guards. It's an intriguing approach and he allows to be rather believable that Phillipe would barely bat an eye as he organizes the plan to kill one of their very best. It's a good performance which stays strictly with the nature of his constrained character almost wholly without a moment of compromise.


Michael McCarthy said...

Soooo looks like everyone's predictions are kinda screwed...

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

If Caine ends up getting a 4, mine aren't.

Anonymous said...

Wow really I thought he was great and that he deserved a bit more. Love the film also. What are your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Anyone seen anything new lately? If so, share your thoughts and ratings if you want.

Cinderella (a rather lovely film. Technically speaking, nothing groundbreaking at all, but I quite liked it)
Bonham Carter-4 (probably the best work I've seen from her in quite a while)
Grainger and McShera-3
Anozie-3(this man needs bigger roles)

Run All Night (as you've probably heard it's basically a modern-day version of Road to Perdition. Nowhere near as good a film, but entertaining enough I guess, much better than some of Neeson's recent efforts)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also watched Pompeii and mock me all you want, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is in my top 10 for 2014 supporting.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Your rating & thoughts on Sutherland's performance in Pompeii.

Anonymous said...

Cinderella (I liked it much less than you. The technical aspects are all fine, I didn't love the movie although I liked it just fine)
James - 3.5 (Cinderella as a character just has to be sweet and charming and not much else, Jones definitely is both so I'd say she succeeded in the role even if it's not too complex)
Madden - 3 (Not much of a character but he's certainly charming and fulfills the role well. Also he has a nice chemistry with James)
Blanchett - 4 (She's so deliciously evil in the part and I loved every time she was on screen. Particularly she nails her big scene adding some nuance to her performance)
Jacobi - 3 (He's good and I liked his death scene, didn't have to do much but he was fine)
Carter - 2.5 (She's not bad technically speaking but she was too annoying for me and I didn't find her too funny)
The others were fine (the step-sisters were funny and they're both a 3 for me, and I also liked Cinderella's father who would be probably a 3 or a 3.5 for me)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: I'd give him 2 Wiseaus. It's annoying because Sutherland is not without talent, and as The Lost Boys and Stand By Me showed he could be a very effective villain. The first half of his performance I would say is painfully uninspired, and not very entertaining either, would not be worthy of Wiseaus, his slurred delivery and gestures seemed to be trying to mimic his father in Backdraft although a whole lot less effectively.

He more than made up for it with the second half of his performance as when he started going full Billy Zane he never looked back, I thought he was fairly fun to watch, though nothing compared to Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending.

I kind of wish the film had been in better hands overall though as it did have potential to actually be a halfway decent film, Kit Harrington has shown on GOT that he can be quite a good actor when the script demands it.

luke higham said...

Since, there might be a Bonus Round based on hilariously bad performances down the line, I'd like to hear everyone's suggestions for it.

I have one at the moment, and it's Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man Remake.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Nic Cage definitely, thing I love about Cage is that his bad performances are always at least entertaining, unlike say Sean Penn who gives bad and boring performances. Hmm let's see

John Travolta in Battlefield Earth
An Ed Wood performance
John Voight in Anaconda

Louis Morgan said...


Meurisse - 3(A small role though he was good in basically kindling being a more amiable version of Ventura's character, and carries enough of an understated command in his scenes to prove himself as the leader)

Cassel - 3(He's also good in showing kinda a different phase of being in the organization as he expresses a bit more enthusiasm as well as more overt of a fear when it seems like the gestapo might be closing in on them)

Barbier - 3(Does not get too many scenes too make an impact though I really liked him when as he expressed the hesitations of his character towards the final killing)

Signoret - 4.5(Bordering on a five as I felt she kinda stole the film. As per usual from Signoret she gives a rather fascinating performance as she believably realizes her character. A housewife who spends her time coming up with ways to thwart and kill the Nazis. Signoret gives such a palatable passion within her character and makes the character of Mathilde absolutely convincing. With that she brings a nice warmth showing how Mathilde has not lost her personal connection in order to become part of the resistance, while she still brings the needed edge about her realizing that she's involved with the extreme measures they must take. She makes herself a particularly endearing element within the film, and her final reaction is particularly moving)


No one should mock you for that placement, he was quite good.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Can you giving a rating and thoughts on Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon?

Anonymous said...

Yeah Signoret probably was the MVP of the cast. She really was great and moving, and the more I think of her performance the more I want to give it a 5.

Anonymous said...

Is Signoret in your Top 10 Actresses? She might be my favorite ever, she always give great performances.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...


Also thoughts and ratings on Von Sydow and Dalton, please.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Bradley Cooper as Norman Maine in ANOTHER remake of A Star is Born. NO he is nowhere near as charming nor as good an actor as James Mason, Fredric March.

If this gets him his 4th Oscar nom in a role...

GM said...

Louis: What are your ratings and thoughts on Davis, Banerjee and Ashcroft in A Passage to India?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis what are your thoughts and ratings on the cast of The Lost Boys.

John Smith said...

Just came up with a great bonus review! Richard Linklater in Slacker (:

Louis Morgan said...


Blessed - 4(These sort of performances are a bit underrated as all performances go as there really are none riskier since if you do it wrong you look like a fool. Blessed does it just right and is extremely entertaining by embracing the bombast in just the right way. Everyone of his line deliveries is gold, and frankly there only should have been more of him)


She probably should be since I've liked to loved her in everything I've seen her in.


von Sydow - 3.5(There also could have been a bit more Ming I would not have minded as von Sydow relishes the role. He is actually menacing though within his gloriously sneering classic sort of villain)

Dalton - 3.5(Dalton interestingly takes a different approach which is to take it quite seriously. The key though is that Dalton, von Sydow, and Blessed all have conviction in their own ways. Dalton's method works as well acting a bit of grounding through his more well down to earth approach to the material)

Patric - 3.5(Patric gives a good performance by realizing the steps of the vampire transformation. He starts out as basically the prototypical 80's older brother teen character, and he's rather interesting in portraying a maturation of sorts through the animal like changes in him)

Haim - 3(He's got enough charisma to get by in just being the spunky kid brother who's really written to purposefully overshadowed by his brother and the Frogs)

Wiest - 3(She's fine though she really has very little to work with)

Sutherland - 3.5(Don't believe Pompeii Sutherland can be menacing as shown here. Sutherland has the needed visceral effectiveness in his portrayal of his vicious vampire, though he also importantly carries a certain appeal about himself suggesting the lure of his group rather well. A re-watch could possibly could move him up)

Hughes - 3(Does the kooky grandpa routine well enough, and his delivery of the final line is pretty great)

Feldman - 3(He does his very Corey Feldmany performance but it fits the role and more importantly he is funny here)

Newlander - 3(Also funny in very much the same vein as Feldman)


Banerjee - 4(He's effectively endearing in his early half with his overt enthusiasm of a guy who essentially wants to be everyone friends. He also is good in his slightly dramatic scenes early on such as when he talks about his deceased wife. After the trial period the transition is immediate, though understandably so, and Banerjee is believable in portraying the way he's becomes embittered after his mistreatment)

Davis - 3.5(She good in her realization of her character's proper manner while still being likable enough. In the big scenes she also does well in representing the immediate fear and pain from the situation. Nevertheless she is pigeonholed by the second half of the film as her character stays silent without the film really bothering to give an explanation or really allow Davis to give one)

Ashcroft - 3.5(She's got the well worn role of the wise and somewhat eccentric old woman, and she performs it well enough though to an amazing extent I felt)

Deiner said...

I really want to watch this film. Especially after this review and your comment on Signoret.
By the way, can you give your thoughts and ratings of: Mélanie Thierry in The Zero Theorem, Melanie Griffith in Something Wild, Rosanna Arquette Teri Garr and Catherine O'Hara in After Hours. Thank you in advance.

Louis Morgan said...

Thierry - 4(A lovely little performance by her as she finds a delicate balance between the Gilliam sort of madness along with a genuine emotion. It's a moving bit work that plays well against Waltz's particularly restrained performance)

Griffith - 2.5(I'm really just not much of a fan of her. I did not find her to be obviously bad though not all that convincing as the bad girl she's suppose to be. I'm mean the film's Ray Liotta's show, and actually she almost undercuts the strength of his performance as she fails to make it convincing why he'd be so obsessed with her even though Liotta portrays the obsession so well)

Haven't seen After Hours, it's one I defintely need to watch.