Thursday October 28, 2010 22:55

Movie #0032 – The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Gillo Pontecorvo
Starring: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi
Second Viewing

Synopsis: Tracing a couple of years in the Algerian resistance of the 1950s.

I’ll admit that I was really not looking forward to revisiting this film; my memory of it was that it was dull and completely overrated. Well, I didn’t exactly love it this time around, but at least I can say that I’m no longer baffled by the film’s enduring popularity. It just goes to show you that it’s sometimes a good idea to revisit certain films; I’m not sure why my opinion on this film changed. Maybe I was just in a weird mood the first time I watched it, or perhaps my tastes have changed over the years. It’s funny, because the opposite thing happened when I revisited Amarcord — I liked it on my first viewing, but not so much on my second.

I can see why I didn’t particularly like this film the first time around; there aren’t really any characters, or at least none that we get to know beyond their politics, and there isn’t much of a narrative to speak of. But there’s something oddly fascinating about watching the minutia of the revolution unfold. It probably helps that I watched a film called Outside the Law at this year’s TIFF, which also dealt with the Algerian resistance, and which gave this film some added context that it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

I’m still not sure that this is the all-time classic that many make this out to be, but it’s definitely an interesting film. Pontecorvo’s gritty, documentary-like style suits the movie well, and there are some pretty great moments here — for instance, a tense sequence in which three Algerian women disguise themselves as Westerners in an attempt to get through a checkpoint with bombs. The ending is oddly abrupt, though the more I think about it, the more I think it works.

Buy the movie at Amazon

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