Criterion Year Week 29: The Battle of Algiers

The Criterion Collection, the last vestige of truly collectible DVD and Blu-Ray movies in existence. These are well produced, fancy pants editions of important and interesting films for the discerning film lover.

We continue our journey through Jim's collection of movies with...

The Battle of Algiers

Spine Number: 249

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Genre: Historical/Political Drama


The very idea of discussing anything political in today's climate is solidly off putting. What should be a civil exchange of ideas has been reduced to vulgar grandstanding. Instead of sharing information and gaining knowledge people have become more interested in either picking a fight to show how stupid and wrong those who disagree with them are, or to get a solid pat on the back from the adoring chorus of like minded individuals. Ideas that are deemed "incorrect" or "improper," are cast aside and ignored. We, as a people, have become a mob, seeking whatever our minds can process as either truth or justice.

Such is the environment that created "The Battle of Algiers."



Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers," is, essentially, the gold standard for historical/political filmmaking. Centering around the events leading up to and following the Algerian war of the 1950's Pontecorvo uses a cinema verite style that is so completely immersive it is easy to forget you are watching a movie, as it could have easily been constructed from newsreel footage.

This film does what good discussion should do. It shows both sides. There are no clear cut heroes or villains here. Both sides are shown as both the victim and the perpetrators of unnecessary violence against the innocent. Rather than take sides Pontecorvo instead focuses on the problems inherent in colonialism, the struggles of a people fighting for their independence, and a group upholding their sworn duty. It is not an easy film, but good discussion rarely should be.

Essentially, this film is about what happens when you ignore people. Ideas are never wiped out. They hide, they fester, and they spread, but they never really go away. What happens when people who have, what they feel, to be legitimate grievances are ignored? Do they simply forget about it? Or do those ideas find a different way to express themselves.

Be warned, we do get political in this show. But that's ok. You may not agree with us. But that, too, is ok. All that we ask, is that you listen to both what we say and how we say it. Nothing we say should upset you. If it does... your refund is in the mail.


Next Week:

We begin our 5 week John Cassavetes festival with...

Spine number 251: Shadows

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