La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) Reviews
I think what makes this film so powerful is the fact that Pontecorvo was able to encompass not only the power and emotion behind a revolutionary movement, but also show the confusion, sorrow, and often senseless violence that are the by-product of these movements.
Also, It was hard not to make modern day parallels to the occupation of Iraq. Watching these French officials attempt to find order and use their minds to fight an "enemy" who is empowered by their hearts, made me rethink every time I saw an American general on television discussing their efforts in stifling the revolutionary movement. It is a rare and brilliant film and is a must watch for any fans of film.
Based on the true story of Algeria's long struggle for independence, this film chronicles a group of freedom fighters (terrorists) as they attempt to overthrow the French Colonial Government. In it's initial release, The Battle of Algiers hit a little too close to home for Americans who were still wallowing through the muck of their own occupation of Vietnam. I'd wager that, if it were released today, it would have the same effect. It's powerful and brutally honest in its depiction of street warfare. A rare offering that is completely deserving of all the hype.
A very good movie depicting the Algerian War taking place between the French and Algerian Nationalists.
It is shot like a documentary, with the subject matter being shown in a sort of gritty intensity, which has gone on to influence many other directors and film styles.
The first half of the story revolves around the nationalists themselves. We see assassinations, bombings, the behind the scenes of these activities, and some of the politics surrounding it.
The second half of the story portrays the government action taken against these nationalists including their own plots, torture, and various other measures.
Its brutal but very true. The movie was made shortly after the war had ended, but the conflict still lives on today.
Also great is Ennio Morricone's score of the film, which adds to the intensity of some of the scenes.
Very well made film that has inspired many more for future years.
Journalist: The law's often inconvenient, Colonel.
Col. Mathieu: And those who explode bombs in public places, do they respect the law perhaps? When you put that question to Ben M'Hidi, remember what he said?
[font=Century Gothic]"Battle of Algiers" starts out in the title city in 1957. The first thing we see is a prisoner who has just been tortured by the French military into giving up the location of a rebel leader, Ali La Pointe. The movie then flashes back to 1954 when La Pointe is an illiterate, petty criminal. He is recruited by the National Liberation Front while in prison. The movie then follows the growth of the insurrection forward to 1957.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Battle of Algiers" is a powerful, provocative fact-based movie filmed in a neo-realist style of a movement for independence seen through the eyes of both French and Algerians. The movie technically sides with the Algerians but features brutality by both sides and does not glamorize the violence. It equates colonialism with racism. My only minor complaint is that I do not really believe in the efficacy of torture. [/font]
The film isn't able to keep a firm grip on its originality, as it has a tendency to return to tropes as a guerilla war drama, and get there in a somewhat limp manner. Reliant on slow-burn tensions when it isn't simply meditating upon not much of anything, Gillo Pontecorvo's direction delivers on plenty of cold spells which all but stiffen a sense of momentum which is even retarded on paper, through repetitious dragging that you'd figure would be in limited supply, considering this film of weighty subject matter's running only about two hours. The film manages to break even by meeting the dragging with developmental shortcomings, for although the motivations can be understood, few, if any characters feel truly distinguished, making it hard to get invested in accessible role, especially within an uneven storytelling style. The film alternates between pseudo-documentary structurings which are objective in feel, and dramatic intimacies whose subjective value is diluted by the stylistic unevenness, and even by a lack of realization to subtlety. About as often as anything, this film is too subtle for its own good, what with its being so limp and undercooked, but when the subtlety lapses, although it doesn't beat you over the head, a sense of genuineness is lost in the wake of melodramatics and an overemphasis on themes that, honestly, are a little problematic to begin with. There are occasions in which themes regarding terrorism feel a bit glorified, and that ought to be disconcerting enough to general audiences, when the film's other ambitions - in uniqueness, thoughtfulness and style - don't lapse and drive the final product very much short of what it could have been. Still, when ambition is adequately fulfilled, the drama ought to engross, even through a somewhat thin script.
Gillo Pontecorvo's and Franco Solinas' script is flawed, offering undercooked and unevenly present, but intriguing characters behind arguably tight set pieces which, with its gritty realism, draws you in, with the help of a unique storytelling style. Sure, the storytelling structure gets formulaic from time to time, and the pseudo-documentary approach to the plotting is distancing enough when it doesn't conflict with the subjective value of the more intimately dramatic aspects, but there is still something fresh about it that helps in making things feel real, which isn't to say that the stylistic highlights end there. Pontecorvo's directorial style is always worthy of some praise, with visual style that is anchored by Marcello Gatti's cinematography being dated, but with a handsomely fitting grime that helps in selling the chill in the air, like, of all things, some nifty audio style tricks. The style orchestrated by Pontecorvo also has its more effective minimal touches, primarily through plays on Pontecorvo's and Ennio Morricone's tasteful scoring, if not on biting somberness which transcend shortcomings in subtlety and pact with anything from tension to resonance. Yes, the subtlety lapses feel propagandist, and of such questionable themes as the possible glorification of terrorism, while realized moments feel balanced enough to be effective in selling the value of the subject matter. In terms of storytelling, there's not much to praise, but engagement value is very much in the story concept, which offers an intimate study on the rise of guerilla warfare during the Battle of Algiers, backed by themes regarding the power and dangers of terrorism, and a social state which might inspired terrorism that might very well still be relevant to this day. They at least remain interesting to this day, because no matter how much this film tries your patience, it ought to hold your attention comfortably enough to engage adequately, even though it could have done so much more.
When the battle is done, there are formulaic occasions and many a moment of dryness throughout an overlong, undercooked and stylistically uneven course of limited subtlety, until enough momentum is lost for the final product to collapses as underwhelming, but there's still enough effectiveness to the writing, stylistic and directorial highlights, and to the worthy subject matter to make Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers" a fair, if problematic war drama.
2.5/5 - Fair
Its style often resembles a documentary film with its raw cinematography and realistic footage. Being the neo-realistic film that it is, almost all of the acting is performed by no-name actors. While this may sound like a bad thing at first, it only adds to the realism, making every torture scene, every shooting, and every death seem as if it were true. Remember, the Hays Code (which would be abolished two years later) was not effective in Italy, so there were practically no restraints on the amount of graphic imagery allowed to be depicted on screen. With this authentic tone, I felt like I cared for the characters much more than the ones in most Hollywood fare of the 1960s. Ironically, they felt much more life-like than the ones characterized by professional Hollywood actors.
The Battle of Algiers is an achingly human experience, enhanced by down-to-Earth direction and authentic character portrayals. It is a bona fide masterpiece of world cinema and has retained every bit of its power since its initial release in 1966. I would be hard-pressed to find a film that has aged as well as The Battle of Algiers has.
Fun fact: This was originally supposed to be a Hollywood film starring Paul Newman. I can't see it conveying the same realism or emotion as in the version we now know.