1960s The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Published on November 15th, 2007 | by Chris

1

The Battle of Algiers (1966)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On November 15, 2007
Last modified:October 16, 2012

Summary:

The Battle of Algiers really surprised me. I found it engrossing and painful, and was shown a bit of world history that we US-ians really dont' know much about.

The Battle of Algiers (1966)Brother, what a brutal film.  The Battle of Algiersis a French production, which focuses on a situation I'm sure most Americans are wholly unfamiliar with: The French struggle to hold onto over 100 years of occupation in the African nation of Algeria, and the rebels who brought about the change.

What struck me most about this film was its style.  Especially considering the time in which it was conceived.  You're looking at a solely black-and-white film, shot in what can only be described as a near-documentary style.  As such you're shown the fight, if you want to call it that, from all points.  Secondly, I was simply amazed at the total *lack* of bias toward either side, given that the events portrayed were only a few years old.  It should also be noted that this film was actually banned outright in France, and I can't say I'm surprised.  Disappointed but not surprised.

The Algerian resistance, aka the FLN, is shown to take control of Algiers in what we'd consider to be terrorist style, yet you're somehow able to identify with them and even live with their decision to bomb four market areas, including a bar and nightclub.

Then there's the French.  A band of paratroopers led by Col. Mathieu comes in to restore order, and you're sure they're just going to kick ass.  Yet they manage to come across no better than the "freedom fighters" in their tactics and opinions.

Bluntly, this shows the brutality and inhumanity which exists on both sides of *any* conflict, and does it in such a way that when its over, you're not left cheering for either side.

Is there a lot of typical war-movie shootemup style action? No, but that's not the point.  I still found myself glued to this movie, wondering which choices both sides would make, and who it would hurt.

Something that also is made clear by this film, from 1965, is how much we have *not* learned, especially in light of other recent "occupations" (for lack of a better word) of middle-eastern nations.  Really you could probably take the premise of this film and re-write it for modern Baghdad, and it would be just as relevant.

The entire film is in French and Arabic, so you'll be reading a *lot* of subtitles.  Unavoidable, and really it doesn't detract anything from the impact of it.  The acting all around was really quite good for (I think) a group of unknowns, and there isn't much of a soundtrack to speak of, which only helps the documentary feel of the thing.

The Battle of Algiers really surprised me.  I found it engrossing and painful, and was shown a bit of world history that we US-ians really dont' know much about.

The Battle of Algiers (The Criterion Collection) The Battle of Algiers (The Criterion Collection)
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Description

One of the most influential films in the history of political cinema, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers focuses on the harrowing events of 1957, a key year in Algeria’s struggle for independence from France...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: Image Entertainment
Manufacturer: Criterion
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Brahim Hadjadj
  • Jean Martin
  • Yacef Saadi
  • Samia Kerbash
  • Tommaso Neri

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Battle of Algiers, January 22, 2015
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It's almost like watching a documentary, I kept reminding myself that all main people in the film were actors hired to play parts and not the real people themselves. It is brilliantly filmed and acted. The movie takes place during the 50's as France struggles to hold on to Algeria, a country in northern Africa. They have ruled Algeria for 130 years and don't want to let go of their old colony. This is odd in a way because they fought the Naz's tooth and nail and yet see no problem with keeping other people under their rule. The Criterion collection presents the whole film in it unedited original release. The spoken languages are both French and Arabic. I love historical films and this one is great. It shows both sides, the FLN, the Arab terrorists and the French army both violating the rights of other people. The French blow up a house and the FLN blows up two restaurants and airline office. The film is in Black and White which lends to the Documentary feel of the film. I... Read more
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revolutionary Film, March 20, 2015
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This review is from: The Battle of Algiers (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I first watched this film in college and my thoughts were, 'Why is this professor making us watch this old film with subtitles? Why is she torturing us?' But once I understood the significance of the film I felt like an idiot. She made us analyze the film in an essay, which was good (in this case). I hope more professors use it in their classes. If mine didn't, I wouldn't have known about it. This is a very good film about Algerian independence from the French who oppressed them for so long. It's just that some scenes are very hard to watch: man's inhumanity to man. I find it interesting that it was banned in France. It sheds a lot of light....The special features are very nice. I highly recommend it to all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Genuine Masterpiece, February 24, 2017
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Looking at this film from a purely artistic standpoint, there's no doubt this is truly a fine artwork. What is so hard to grasp is that it was done so realistically, so believably, that it's like watching real documentary or newsreel footage. No wonder the director had to include a statement that no such footage was used in his work. How could he achieve such incredible effects, with such large crowds of extras and nonprofessionals in supporting and leading roles? From this standpoint, this film is truly breathtaking--indeed, jaw dropping. He tried to make his work well balanced and was quite successful; it's fair to both sides and there's no particular political statement to be had. Only the tragedy and futility of war.
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The Battle of Algiers (1966) Chris

Summary: The Battle of Algiers really surprised me. I found it engrossing and painful, and was shown a bit of world history that we US-ians really dont' know much about.

4.5


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to The Battle of Algiers (1966)

  1. Caroline says:

    First: I really like your blog. I just started mine and yeah well… I´m a long way from what you are doing but then again my approach is somewhat different.
    What tickled me to leave a comment here is that I was curious to find out what movies on the war in Algeria you reviewed.
    My father was fighting there for three years.
    I havenßt watched La battaglia di Algeri yet (Yeah, that´s actually my comment…it´s an Italian/Algerian production. Couldn´t have been French. They were still recovering. Nowadays you can find a few French movies about Algeria) Do you know L´ennemi intime aka Intimate enemies (2007). Watch it.

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