Must France stay in Algeria
November 3, 2004 8:21 AM   Subscribe

It all comes down do one question: Must France stay in Algeria? “If the answer is yes,” he says, “then you must accept the consequences.”
Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers", now out on a Criterion dvd, is a film of quiet, overwhelming power. The mix of subjective and documentary techniques holds the viewer's trust so authoritatively that many scenes come close to sneaking out of the mental "movies I saw" box to mix with the viewer's own memories. No matter how complicated or fragmented the action becomes, Pontecorvo gets the pace, tone and rhythm exactly right, filling the screen with eloquent details.
(Last year, Pontecorvo's masterpiece was discussed here, too. More inside)
posted by matteo (9 comments total)
from the DVD director's commentary:

"It was a dangerous novelty to use non-professional actors and to have not one single protagonist but a collective one, a chorus," Pontecorvo says on the DVD. "It seemed to me the only way to win over audiences to a film so different from the ones they were used to was to impose a dictatorship of truth, that is, to give the impression of a documentary, a newsreel."

trivia for movie fans: BoA's music is by Ennio Morricone
posted by matteo at 8:29 AM on November 3, 2004

Good one, matteo! Great, great flick.
posted by mwhybark at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2004

re Pontecorvo's work:

'Queimada': Revolution In Perpetual Motion

and according to Pauline Kael, BoA is

"probably the only film that has ever made middle-class audiences believe in the necessity of bombing innocent people."

posted by matteo at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2004

Morricone wasn't the only soundtrack producer. You can tell if you listen closely that his trademark style is mixed with a more traditional ambient style from another musician/score writer.

I really do like the movie. Too bad I'm seeing it on TV most nights now.
posted by infowar at 10:15 AM on November 3, 2004

This was an incredible film: by avoiding having any central characters, all people on both sides are treated with equal value. Thanks for the post, it's been one of the greatest/powerful movies I've seen.
posted by iamck at 3:52 PM on November 3, 2004

I've had it on my favorite-films list for decades and have seen it every chance I got (which wasn't often); when I saw Criterion was going to release it I preordered it and just recently got my copy. I've been too busy preparing to move to watch it yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it. An incredible film indeed.
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on November 3, 2004

More trivia, this movie was part of "basic training" for the Black Panther's in the '60s.
posted by ahimsakid at 5:08 PM on November 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

Can I just take a moment to give a shout out for all the great posts that matteo's given us in the last 6 weeks or so? I've lost full days of productivity to some of these. I'm almost always learning more about something I'd meant to research, returning to an old favorite something with a fresh pair of eyes, or finding something new to discover after having read these posts. Thanks!

Re: The Battle of Algiers -- I've been looking to track this film down for a while -- it came up in the context of a course I was leading, but I wasn't able to get a copy. I'm happy that that's no longer the case. Thanks for letting me know.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:54 PM on November 3, 2004

.kobayashi, amen! Matteo has been posting oustanding, deep, and enriching posts. M, thanks again for this post!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 9:09 PM on November 3, 2004

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