February 26, 2004
The Battle of Algiers

I'm having a hard time summarizing this film so here's the blurb from the Castro Theater's flyer: Algiers, 1957: French paratroopers inch their way through the narrow, labyrinthine byways of the Casbah to zero in on the hideout of revolutionary stalwart Ali la Pointe, the last rebel still free in the city. Flashback three years earlier to the beginning of the conflict, as the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) decides on urban warfare. Thus begin the provocations, assassinations, hair-breadth escapes, and reprisals, with the torture of prisoners done to a Bach chorale: Algerian women--disguised as chic Europeans--depositing bombs at a sidewalk cafe, a teenagers' hang-out and an Air France office; and massive, surging crowd scenes unfolding wtih such gripping realism that the original U.S. distributer had to insert the disclaimer "Not one foot of newsreel or documentary film has been used."

Basically, the Algerians were sick of being colonized by the French. So they fought back using underground tactics. This caught the attention of the French government, naturally, who sent in military who were willing to do whatever they had to to break the rebellion. This film is definitely told from the Algerian point of view--the film treatment was written by an FLN boss, one of the film's stars, while he was in prison. The Algerians are people trying to reclaim their city. The French are the nasty Europeans who don't care about anything but their parties, cafes, and having power.

This film is a strange combination of fiction and documentary (though as mentioned above, there's no actual documentary footage). It has a gritty, realistic feel at all times. Made in 1965, the battle and Algeria's independence were still raw and live in the filmmakers' minds. It shows in the film. This reissue apparently has subtitles that accurately reflect the French and Arabic dialogue.

Posted by Alyssa at February 26, 2004 10:14 PM
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