Friday, December 02, 2016

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Gillo Pontecorvo's historical drama about the resistance movement against the French occupation of Algiers in the 1950s remains one of the most explosive, powerful films of its kind. Filmed with a documentary-like realism, Pontecorvo fills the film with unforgettable, disturbing images that hold nothing back. It's an absolutely bold, fearless film that is also remarkable for its objectivity in presenting the perspectives of both the French military and the FLN. Pontecorvo creates a heightened sense of dread and terror, of violence and catastrophe about to erupt at any minute, most effective in the expertly-timed, highly suspenseful sequence in which a series of bombs are planted in various public places throughout the city, and detonate in short order (recalling the similarly anxiety-inducing sequence of an anarchist's bomb exploding on a crowded London bus in Hitchcock's Sabotage).

Stylistically, the film resembles the post-war Italian NeoRealist cinema, especially recalling the films of Rossellini such as Open City, and at times feels like it could be a kind of late entry in that tradition of filmmaking in terms of its masterful combination of powerful filmic and political ideas.

Epic in its scope and scale and timely as ever, The Battle of Algiers, is rightly called a masterpiece.

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