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The Battle of Algiers - Criterion Collection
The Battle of Algiers - Criterion Collection
Actors: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Samia Kerbash, Ugo Paletti
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     2004     2hr 5min

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. Shot in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Samia Kerbash, Ugo Paletti
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Creators: Yacef Saadi, Marcello Gatti, Gillo Pontecorvo, Mario Morra, Antonio Musu, Fred Baker, Franco Solinas
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/12/2004
Original Release Date: 09/20/1967
Theatrical Release Date: 09/20/1967
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 5min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 21
Edition: Box set,Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

"The word 'torture' does not appear in our orders."
anomie | 06/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Battle of Algiers" is the story of a revolution. The film--based on real events--begins in 1954 with Ali-La-Pointe--an illiterate, unemployed ex-boxer. He winds up in prison, and it's there that he begins to identify with the F.N.L.--the National Liberation Front. The F.N.L.'s goal is an independent Algeria--free from French occupation--ruled "with a framework of Islamic principles." Once out of prison, Ali joins the F.N.L and begins 'cleansing' the Casbah (the Muslim section of Algiers) of undesirable Algerians who dabble in prostitution, narcotics and alcohol. The film shifts focus from Ali to the uprising against French Occupation. The situation subtly escalates--French police who sit peacefully drinking coffee in street cafes are murdered, and anti-Arab feelings mount. With a momentum of its own, the situation is blown beyond all control--terrorism is rampant--cafes, air terminals, and racetracks are all targets. Naturally, the French respond, but terrorism still increases, and French officials bump up against such bureaucratic necessities as search warrants and paperwork. Soon the French are behind sandbags and barbed wire, and the Muslim population of the Casbah are subject to checkpoints manned by French soldiers. At this point, seasoned warrior French Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu arrives. While the French residents of Algiers welcome his arrival, Mathieu's march though the streets ultimately seems sinister. He's a career soldier, highly principled in his own way--and he's there to win. Mathieu doesn't mess about. He takes control of the situation and tells his officers "to succumb to humane considerations only leads to hopeless chaos." Strategy dramatically changes as Mathieu methodically rounds up and tortures Algerians. It's a shotgun approach--evidently if you round up enough people and torture them, information will eventually pry loose. And it is by this method that Mathieu begins to break down the cell structure of the terrorist group. Using torture undermines the morality of the French position, but Mathieu tells the troubled French press that the matter is simple--the F.N.L wants the French out, but if France chooses to keep Algeria "you must accept the consequences." "The Battle of Algiers" is a masterpiece of filmmaking. It's black and white, directed by Italian director, Gillo Pontecorvo with English subtitles. The film has a somewhat grainy look to it that underscores the feeling you're watching a documentary. Interestingly enough the only professional actor in the entire film is Jean Martin who plays Lt Colonel Mathieu (based on General Massu). It's a travesty that this film has faded into obscurity, but evidently enough people know about it for a screening of the film to take place for Special Operations at the Pentagon on August 27, 2003. "The Battle of Algiers" was banned in France and is considered the quintessential film study of a nationalistic insurgency against capitalist suppression. If you are interested in watching an unforgettable political film, it doesn't get better than "The Battle of Algiers." After watching "The Birth of a Nation" Lenin commented that cinema is "History written with lightening." And after finishing "The Battle of Algiers" I'd have to agree--displacedhuman"
Historically Loaded and Politically Powerful Cinema...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Battle of Algiers displays the occupied Algeria attempt to fight for freedom as they have been under French rule since the 1830's. A little background history would enlighten the audience as the invasion of North Africa, Land of the Berbers, by the French in the 1830's was instigated by 300 years of "pirating" ships in the Mediterranean and raids of southern Europe, which enslaved many Europeans that were brought to Africa. However, the French occupation brought great injustices to the Algerian people as they are treated as second class citizens. In addition, the French controlled the markets, resources, and jobs, which only further the lives of the French citizens.

The injustices forced upon the Algerians to live in poverty, unemployment, societal harassment, and unequal rights. Consequently, the Algerians begin to rise against the injustice, but the unequal military force drives the Algerian freedom fighters to exercise terrorism and other hideous acts of violence. This violence is fed by further aggression from the French police as it escalates the violence from both sides.

The story begins with a man being humanely treated after a rough bout of torture as persecuting soldiers blame the man for the excessive torture, as all he had to do was to tell them what they wanted to know. The tortured man has just revealed the whereabouts of a known terrorist and he is in emotional agony as he is aware of what he has just done. They dress the agonized man in a French camouflage uniform, and depart to capture the freedom fighter.

The freedom fighter, Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), hides in a secret room behind a wall with three others. When the French soldiers arrive they immediately seek the hidden room and they threaten to detonate a bomb that will destroy the building with them inside unless surrender. In this moment Ali flashbacks to how he ended up in this situation, which also conveys the importance of this moment in Algerian history.

Gillo Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas wrote a politically loaded story about the Algerian liberation in the 1960s that depicted the French resistance to let go of their colony in northern Africa. The film was released in a time when the world was divided in east, Warsaw Pact, and west, North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Communism was the foundation of the east while the west was built around capitalism. These two economical ideologies were in fact in constant confrontation in the Third World as the Western World resisted to let go of their colonies. The civil outcry for freedom in Algeria spread a wildfire of freedom seeking people throughout the Third World.

Pontecorvo and Solinas, which laid out the framework for the film, base the story on long and hard research in Algeria. The film is told with a strong democratic view, which is reinforced through Pontecorvo's direction, which used an Italian neorealistic approach. The cinematic experience that is brought to the audience is powerful, as it will shake the ground upon which the audience is resting their feet. Battle of Algiers also teaches the audience to appreciate freedom fighters such as the patient Gandhi with his nonviolent approach to reach freedom.

CRITERION - Once again the unique art house company releases a DVD worthy their meticulous attention as they provide a film with outstanding information in regards to the film with several discs and booklet. This is definitely worth a purchase for any film enthusiast that wants to learn a little bit besides enjoying the cinematic journey."
Agron Elmazi | Buffalo | 03/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film was released in the late sixties at the same time the U.S. was getting involved with Vietnam and the similarities are obvious. This is an emotional film which should be seen by all people(except young children). It's use of black and white film, documentary style look, non-professional actors, music, and realism make this a legendary film experience. It starts off with Ali "La Pointe" joining the freedom fighters against French colonial rule. Both sides start bombing each other and then France sends in its army to squash the rebellion. The films violence is harsh but necessary. The torture scenes were removed from some european prints but is intact in this video. This is the type of film that should be shown in highschool and college classes, it is a part of history. The things that will linger with you after watching this excellent film is what the Algerians went through to get their independence, too many innocent people died in this struggle and the viewer can't but help feeling the tragedy of this type of struggle, the final thirty minutes of this film is heartrending. Watch it!"
Ground-breaking film is a must-see
Clayton Whitt | San Luis Obispo, CA United States | 07/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'll review the actual film instead of rambling on about the politics. The Battle of Algiers is a ground-breaking, must-see film. If you have seen recent films like "Traffic" and "City of God (Cidade de Deus)", then you must see this film, for it pioneered the documentary-style utilized by those other films that puts the grit and gravel under your feet while you watch it. The film does not purport to be a documentary, but rather than the clean, sweeping, over-directed camera shots you may be used to, the camera is usually on the ground, following the characters from their point of view. The action is brutally realistic (for its time). And the film-maker is certainly sympathetic with the plight of the Algerians in their struggle against the French; you will be too, if you do not share the naive view that colonialism is somehow there to "protect" the colonized population. Nevertheless, the filmmaker shows some of the atrocities committed in the name of Algerian independence, such as cafe bombings that killed dozens of innocent people. He doesn't sugarcoat these scenes, and he leaves it up to the audience to decide whether this kind of action can ever be justified (I certainly don't think so). This film is even more relevent today, as another Arab nation undergoes colonization once again by the West. Watch this film, and you will understand a lot more about the contemporary situation in the Middle East."