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Robert Guédiguian (L’armée du crime, France 2009)
Robert Guédiguian’s lush historical drama focuses on a largely overlooked cell of French Resistance fighters—refugees of the antifascist fight throughout Europe, mostly Jews and communists—led by French Armenian poet Missak Manouchian and his wife Mélinée.

“This is France. Nothing can happen to us here. It’s the land of human rights.” So counsels a foreign-born mother to her distraught son, a bright young Jewish communist harassed by fellow students all too willing to collaborate with the Nazi forces occupying Paris in 1941. His principal declares the school neutral in politics, but the young man—one of several real-life unsung heroes of the French Resistance memorialized in Robert Guédiguian’s lush historical drama—responds correctly, “No one can be neutral now.” Guédiguian bases his taut thriller on a largely overlooked cell of resistance fighters, refugees of the antifascist fight throughout Europe, most of whom were Jews and communists, led by French Armenian poet Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian), whose written words powerfully undergird the narrative. Told in a flashback from 1944, after most have been arrested and face execution, the story proper begins amid growing local resistance and German reprisals. With the Gestapo closing in, we are drawn into the work and personal lives of a circle of fearless, brazenly idealistic young men and women—including Manouchian’s wife, Mélinée (Virginie Ledoyen), who survived the war—their varying backgrounds insignificant beside a mutual refusal to back down to injustice. The tyrannical regime deems them an “army of crime,” but Guédiguian shows them as exemplary, emblematic martyrs to France and, indeed, universal human rights. —Robert Avila, SF Jewish Film Festival


Written by Serge Le Peron, Gilles Taurand, Robert Guédiguian. Photographed by Pierre Milon. With Virginie Ledoyen, Simon Abkarian, Jean-Pierre Dorroussin, Robinson Stévenin. (133 min, Kino Lorber).
August 20–26, 2010
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
DEVELOPER'S NOTE: http://old.sffs.org/content.aspx?pageid=1721