The Army of Shadows on Arte: Why Lino Ventura No Longer Speaks to Melville - Actus Ciné

The Army of Shadows on Arte: Why Lino Ventura No Longer Speaks to Melville – Actus Ciné

On the set of The Army of Shadows, the atmosphere is icy due to a misunderstanding between film star Lino Ventura and Jean-Pierre Melville. But where does she come from and why did the two men work together again after their quarrel?

The Army of Shadows is a powerful film, the favorite of the director of photography Roger Deakinsand important for its director Jean-Pierre Melvillewho put in many of his memories of occupied France.

However, the shooting of this feature film will be very tense due to the misunderstanding of the film’s star, Lino Ventura, with the filmmaker. To understand where these complicated relationships come from, you have to go back a few years.

It’s 1966, Jean-Pierre Melville is running Paul Meurisse and Lino Ventura in a black film titled The Second Breath. The story is about an escapee (Ventura) who is being chased by a commissioner (Meurisse).

During the film, Ventura’s character has to catch a moving train to get on it. Unbeknownst to the actor, Melville instructs the driver of the vehicle to go faster and Ventura really has to suffer to get on, which he says will make the screen better.

The scene is shot without the actor knowing anything about this ploy. When he learns of this plot much later, Ventura will make it clear that he will not be filming with the director. To this day in 1969.


Lino gallops to catch the train because of Melville

Indeed, Jean-Pierre Melville remembers the good memory of the former wrestler who became an actor to offer him a new feature film alongside Paul Meurisse: The Army of Shadows. Adapted from Joseph Kessel, the film takes place in the France of the occupation, and follows Gerbier, engineer of Bridges and Roads, one of the leaders of the Resistance. Reported and captured, he is imprisoned in a prison camp. As he prepares for his escape, he is recovered by the Gestapo.

Known for being a man of principles and speech, Ventura really doesn’t want to rework with Melville and refuses the role. Except the filmmaker has a binding Ventura contract, which still owes a film to the director. The actor therefore accepts with regret and the atmosphere on the set is electric. Ironically, The Army of Shadows addresses the issue of given speech and betrayal, among other things.


Simone Signoret and Lino Ventura in The Army of Shadows

Witness the situation, Bertrand Tavernierthen a press officer for Melville, recounted years later :

I remember once, at the restaurant, Lino raised the tablecloth and said, “I want to make sure the hyena isn’t under the table.” [Melville et lui] they spoke through their assistants, but always very politely.

To communicate, Melville and Ventura go through assistants and limit any verbal exchanges to the bare minimum and what is essential to filming. Despite this terrible climate, the feature film still totals 1.4 million admissions, which is average for regular Melville films.

About 2 months later, Ventura will forget about this complicated shoot by sharing the success of Clan of the Sicilians with Jean Gabin et Alain Delon for a nice score of 4.82 million tickets sold. Freed from his contract, he will never work with Jean-Pierre Melville again.

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