The Battle of Algiers (Special Edition) DVD
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Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Produced in 1965
Main Language - French / Arabic with English subtitles
Countries & Regions - European Film
Jean Martin, Brahim Haggiag
In 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched its bid to end 120 years of French colonial occupation in Algeria. Based on actual events - although not without its moments of dramatic licence - The Battle of Algiers chronicles three years of insurrection and repression with such cine-veracity that the producers felt the need to append a caption at the end of the opening titles assuring viewers that `not one foot' of documentary material had been included.
Released just four years after Algeria had secured its independence from France, Gillo Pontecorvo's film has lost none of its power to shock and provoke. Indeed, it's been given renewed relevance by recent events in the Middle East. Some may see an irony in the decision of the United Nations not to intervene back in the mid-1950s, leaving France to conduct a pitiless and unpopular rearguard in the face of terrorist assault. Others may find justification for current tactics (on both sides of the debate/war), while others again might lament at humanity's inability to learn from the lessons of history. But what remains incontrovertible is the technical and dramatic skill that enabled Pontecorvo to create one of the most emotive political films ever made.
Pauline Kael compared the propagandist impact of The Battle of Algiers with Leni Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will. She even accused Pontecorvo of being that `most dangerous kind of Marxist, a Marxist poet'. She may have had a point about socialist agit-prop being afforded a cinematic and socio-political respectability that has always been denied right-wing film-making. But surely a more useful comparison could be made with Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), which was also made on location, with a largely non-professional cast in a neo-realistic style that owed more to newsreel than studio artifice.
However, Pontecorvo avoids the melodramatics of Rossellini's film by presenting the victims of both the bomb blasts and the reprisals as genuinely innocent people rather than the faceless casualties of a revolutionary or imperialist cause. Consequently, the lingering shots of unsuspecting individuals before the carnage are every bit as disturbing as those depicting the rebels being tortured by Jean Martin's military. Pontecorvo's sympathies may be evident, but his conviction and condemnation are not devoid of compassion.
Despite winning the Golden Lion at Venice and being nominated for three Academy Awards, the film was banned in France for five years. It's this contentiousness on which its reputation still rests. But it also has a vigour, a commitment and an intelligence that is absent from too much modern cinema.
David Parkinson on 10th December 2003
Author of 193 reviews
A powerful, dispassionate account of the Algerian war of Independence which generated huge political and aesthetic ripples. With its gripping documentary-style realism providing a very believable immediacy, it’s a compelling indictment of colonialism. Aided by Morricone's score it's a film that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn't let go. Could be 1957, could be 2008, 2009...
Set during the 1954 to 1962 Franco-Algerian conflict, The Battle of Algiers effectively and authentically recreates the pivotal political events that took place in the city of Algiers between 1954 and 1957. In an attempt to end French colonialism, which had been in place since 1830, in 1954 the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) began a war of liberation, using terrorism to highlight the plight of the Algerian people to the rest of the world. In response to the escalating terrorist violence in the city of Algiers, the French government sent in an armed force of paratroopers to crush the uprising. Authorised to use whatever force and methods were believed to be necessary in bringing an end to the revolution, the actions of the French military led to a regrettable catalogue of atrocities being committed by those on both sides of the conflict.
Shot documentary-style in grainy, newsreel quality monochrome, The Battle of Algiers is an extremely powerful, deeply moving and often shocking cinematic experience. The film's remarkable authenticity is helped in no small part by the Algerian government's assistance in providing the production with financial assistance and access to military resources, as well as allowing the filmmakers the run of the city.
The winner of numerous awards, including a BAFTA UN Award and both the Golden Lion and the FIPRESCI Award at the 1966 Venice Film Festival, The Battle of Algiers is a regular fixture in critics' and filmmakers' "Greatest Movies of All Time" lists and was also nominated for three Oscars, including Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film.
Publisher: Argent Film
Length: 116 mins
Aspect ratio: 16/9 Widescreen
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 24th August 2009
Cat No: AGTD011
- Restored from new master
- The Making of The Battle Of Algiers: an exclusive 20-minute interview with director Gillo Pontecorvo
- The Real Battle Of Algiers: an exclusive 20-minute interview with Saadi Yacef - the film's co-producer and the real-life Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) leader on whose memoir the film was based
- Extensive Photo Gallery including pictures from the filmmakers' personal archives
- Dual audio options (French-Arabic and Italian version created for the Venice Festival) with optional English subtitles.
by Barry Forshaw on 7th October 2003
Here's some welcome news. A new label, Argent Films, is to release fully restored DVD versions of classic films by some of Europe's greatest and most respected directo... Read on
Here's some welcome news. A new label, Argent Films, is to release fully restored DVD versions of classic films by some of Europe's greatest and most respected directors: forthcoming releases will include works from luminaries such as De Sica, Visconti, Godard, Ferreri, Fellini and the Taviani brothers. Argent's first release is one of the most influential of modern films: The Battle of Algiers is director Gillo Pontecorvo's astonishing documentary-style account of the 1954-62 Franco-Algerian conflict - a nominee for numerous awards and winner of many. As relevant today as ever, the film was screened internally this month by The Pentagon (as a direct result of the challenge by terrorist tactics and guerilla warfare currently being faced by US forces in Iraq). Whether or not Pontecorvo would welcome this move is open to debate, but it demonstrates how cutting-edge the film still is. Ennio Morricone's powerful score is another distinct plus. Hide
by Anon on 1st February 2001
Possibly the most compelling indictment of Colonialism, all the more convincing for its admirable integrity and gripping documentary-like realism. Read on
Possibly the most compelling indictment of Colonialism, all the more convincing for its admirable integrity and gripping documentary-like realism. Hide