The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri) (1966) (NR)

Drama 120 January 9, 2004
By Gregory Weinkauf
With its fortieth anniversary approaching in 2005, this astonishingly gritty film maintains its strong niche between Roberto Rossellini’s Open City and Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday as a pinnacle of war-torn neo-realist drama. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (who co-wrote with Franco Solinas), this Italian-Algerian co-production digs into the French-Algerian conflict between 1954 and 1960, as terrorists/freedom fighters from the Algerian National Liberation Front stage covert attacks upon the French colonialists, who are freshly rancorous following their failure in Indo-China. It drags in bits, but recovers with great intensity. And technically, it's stunning: Brilliantly staged conflicts segue via Ennio Morricone's haunting score, and the performances (particularly from Brahim Haggiag as a resistance fighter and Jean Martin as his determined opponent) are top-notch. So realistic is the footage -- the bombings, the tortures, the harrowing riot at the end -- that the filmmakers wisely offer a disclaimer that there's no documentary or newsreel footage involved. More important, though, is that the project's applicability to world events remains completely untarnished by time.
Gillo Pontecorvo Brahim Haggiag, Yacef Saadi, Jean Martin, Samia Kerbash, Ugo Paletti, Fusia El Kader, Omar Gillo Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas Antonio Musu, Yacef Saadi Rialto Pictures

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