The Battle of Algiers (1966)

The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Franco Solinas based on the story by Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo
(number 126)

This film starts bleak and hard and I have to say it doesn’t really get better from there. Knowing very little about this movie, I watched it with Steve who I think, got a better grasp on the politics of the film than I did from the start. Later on I have everything straight right.

Jesus, the sequence with the kids attacking the wino, that was unpleasant to watch. The old upsetting bullying mob thing gets me every time. Oh god and then the old Arab guy in the street and all the white French people calling out where he is and where he’s going to the police can pick him up. I really hate

This film is apparently based on the real events of the Algerian war of independence from not so long before the film was made. The quality of the film and the documentary style way it was shot meant at the time it was released many cinemas advertised that it had no news reel footage in it, because otherwise people would think it was a documentary.

The escalating tactics of the French military police all felt very real and also, tapped right into my fears for the future of America and maybe England. I don’t think New Zealand is so far down that path, but sealing off the Muslim quarter and instituting checkpoints where people have to produce papers sounds very much like something that could happen in Trump’s America. Horrifying.

Does it make me love the people? I feel like this movie was deliberately made to give me no love for people. It shows so much of people at their worst, being underhanded. Steve has pointed out that at least they have established that each faction is doing what they think is best. By the end I did actually love Captain Mathieu and Ben M’Hidi, the two heads of the opposing sides. Especially after the firecracker sequence of the press conference. That was just dynamite to watch, ace stuff.

Bechdel test: There are a lot of women, and they are in scenes together. But it’s hard to get their names, and I don’t think they talk to each other, just to the men. I did love the sequence of the women coming home, taking off their veils and then making themselves look like French women instead by cutting their hair, applying make up, etc. Sort of reminded me of Persepolis. It does get close with the three women who leave the bombs, except I can’t seem to find their names.

Best line:

Ben M’Hidi: Acts of violence don’t win wars. Neither wars nor revolutions. Terrorism is useful as a start. But then, the people themselves must act. That’s the rationale behind this strike: to mobilize all Algerians, to assess our strength.

State of Mind: Gripping, but unpleasant. The massive crowd scenes with the protesters against the police are intense, Steve and I both felt like we were watching news footage and for goodness did they film it all? No wonder they had to put out disclaimers. It really was a fantastic film but not a pleasant watch particularly. I’m impressed. I may even consider watching it again, and I’m pleased that I saw it.

Watched movie count