The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

What's it about? It's about the Algerian War of Independence, focusing mainly on the urban guerilla warfare in Algiers between the Algerian freedom fighters and French paratroopers from 1954 -1957.

Is it any good? Fantastic. Utilising an episodic approach, Pontecorvo creates a brilliant and uncomfortably realistic picture of political and public unrest. He portrays key and representative events over a period of some years, taking care to show both sides' perspective on events through different characters. It's both unsettling and thrilling, not least in the bomb-planting sequence, which is as nerve-shredding a sequence as has ever been committed to film, mostly because it seems so real. In fact, the recreation of casbah life and crowd scenes is so effective that Pontecorvo was obliged to insert a disclaimer to state that no documentary footage was used in making the film. All in all, an outstanding achievement, technically brilliant whilst also thought-provoking, gripping, even-handed and emotionally affecting.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Regarded as one of the great films in World Cinema, and revered by critics for its combination of classic film styles such as French cinema verite, Italian neo-realism and Russian socialist realism. But its influence stretches far beyond film critics. The details of the cell structure of the revolutionaries were so explicit, it was copied by the likes of IRA and the Black Panthers, who pretty much used it as a training manual. Now that's influential.

Anything else I should know? In 2003, the Pentagon famously screened the film for its staff as an illustration and a warning about the problems they would face in the aftermath of The Iraq War. So that worked out well.


What does the Fonz think? A truly great film. Rock the Casbah.





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