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500 Five-Star: The Battle of Algiers (1966)

December 17, 2011


A truly astonishing film, The Battle of Algiers documents a crucial period in the Algerian war of independence from both sides: the Algerian nationalists and their French rulers.  While production of the film was backed by the Algerian government, and this shows in sympathy being slanted slightly towards the Algerians, it’s still a surprisingly even-handed look at a conflict which has had a large influence on global warfare in the sixty years since.  The strategies and points of view of both the French and Algerian sides are equally explored, atrocities on both sides well-documented and the tragic results never shied away from…resulting in a film that is tense, dramatic, and above all, powerful.  Technically, it is an absolute marvel; it is shot in a realist style, with dramatic, beautiful black and white photography adding to the effect.  It is no wonder that on release, the audience had to be informed (via a pre-credits disclaimer) that no newsreel footage had been used…watching the crowd scenes and bombing aftermaths, in particular, it’s easy to understand why this was so necessary.  Try as I might, I really can’t think of a bad word to say; this is a film which is just about perfect on every level.



World cinema at its absolute best.  If I can’t even come up with a random historical inaccuracy to complain about, you know it must be good…


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