The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers
(Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A searing classic, 'The Battle of Algiers' is a rough and ready masterpiece now available on a solid Blu-ray.
In addition to being the only film in Oscar history to be nominated in two different years (Foreign Film in 1967 and Best Director and Screenplay in 1969), 'The Battle of Algiers' is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Decades later, 'The Battle of Algiers' is probably the most balanced account of war ever committed to film. It is also one of the most realistic. Shot on location in Algiers, using real places in both the Casbah and European quarter, all of the high-octane riots were shot live. It feels spontaneous, unflinching and shocking.
Urban guerrilla fighting is the focus of Gillo Ponetcorvo's handheld epic that sees women and children plant bombs and assassinate the conventional forces before disappearing back into the underworld. 'The Battle of Algiers' is specifically interested in how both sides operate. We follow a French colonel and a petty criminal who becomes a leader - both are equally fascinating.
We see torture, street fighting, plans being made which then proceed to succeed or fail - all of which help us to better understand the fighters at stake but rarely is there ever a slant. The fact that this film is shot like a documentary only aids this astonishing feat.
To have shot in glorious colour with gliding, smooth camera work and handsome actors would've severely strangled this film's intensity. The film is so influential that it has been adopted by armies across the world, including a Pentagon briefing regarding the Iraq war.
Desperation is rarely seen with such clarity and intelligent analysis. The movie comes highly recommended and Argent Film's Blu-ray has as good a print as you could hope for for such an intentionally grainy, gritty film. It also has a selection of insightful interviews.
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