Classic Movie Review: The Battle of Algiers (1966)


Title: The Battle of Algiers
Release Date: September 8, 1966
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Production Company: Igor Film | Casbah Film
Summary/Review:

I’ve meant to watch this movie for quite some time but never felt I’d be “in the mood” for a grim depiction of guerilla warfare and the horrors of colonialism.  While my assumptions of the movie are correct, I also found it to be a gripping drama that tells a very familiar story. Set in the Algerian capital during the early years of the Algerian War for Independence, 1954-1957, it depicts the  atrocities committed by insurgents and the police and military in an escalating series of reprisals in neorealist newsreel style. The movie reminded me of films of conflicts in Ireland, such as The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Bloody Sunday. But it’s also familiar from just watching the news from Iraq in recent decades.

The movie focuses on Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), a real life figure who is recruited and rises to a leadership position in the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). The role of counterinsurgency is taken by Colonel Philippe Mathieu (Jean Martin, the only professional actor in the movie), a fictionalized character based on the leaders of the French paratroopers who are called in to suppress the revolution.  But by and large, this is an ensemble film with hundreds of non-professional actors, many of whom were veterans of the war.

The Battle of Algiers begins and ends in 1957 with Mathieu victorious, with the rest of the film being an extended flashback.  But an epilogue shows the a revived and unified movement for independence beginning in 1960, which eventually lead to Algeria winning independence in 1962.  I find it stunning that this movie was made just a decade after the events depicted, shot on location with so many people who lived through the war in the cast.  It must have been so raw for them, but it also adds to the feeling of documentary-style authenticity.

This movie is not easy to watch with its unflinching depiction of mob violence, shootings, terrorist bombings, and torture. But it is an important movie to watch as it is a document not just of the Algerian War for Independence but of the repeating pattern of colonized and oppressed people rising up for their freedom, meeting harsh reprisals, and expanding into guerilla warfare.

Rating: ****1/2

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


Here are 20 of my favorite songs of 2017. For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 20162015,  201420132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

In no particular order

“Blue Mountain Road” by Florist

“Memories are Now” by Jesca Hoop

“You Would Have to Lose Your Mind” by Barr Brothers

“Cherry Blossom: by ALA.NI 

“Drinkee” by Sofi Tukker

“Every Day’s the Weekend” by Alex Lahey

“Witness” by  Benjamin Booker (feat. Mavis Staples)

“I Give You Power” by Arcade Fire (feat. Mavis Staples)

“Quiet” by Milck 

“Work” by  Charlotte Day Wilson

“Familiar” by Agnes Obel

“Cryin’ in the Streets” by Zeshan B

“Venus Fly” by Grimes (feat. Janelle Monae) – technically this song is from 2015, but the video of this most important collaboration came out this year bringing due attention to the song.

“Hot to Trot” by  Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

“Modafinil Blues” by Matthew Dear

“The Underside of Power” by Algiers 

“A Wall” by Downtown Boys

“Future Politics” by Austra

“Learning to Lose” by Margo Price (feat. Willie Nelson)

“Straight Boy” by Shamir

 

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


This has been a challenging year in music as there have been few things that have jumped out at me as being all-time classics, much less favorites for 2017.  To add to the struggle a lot of artists that I’ve counted on to produce great music put out new albums this year including Beck, Björk, Blitzen Trapper, Flaming Lips, Gorrillaz, The New Pornographers, Shamir, St. Vincent, and The xx.  What should’ve been a bumper crop of music was dissapointing, and while I would not say that any of these artists’ albums were bad, I believe that could have done better.  I don’t know, maybe I’m missing the great music of 2017, and if that is the case please direct to me to those great tunes ASAP.

Nevertheless, her are six albums from 2017 that I loved, with links to the original reviews.  Check them out!

ArtistRun the Jewels 
AlbumRun the Jewels 3  

ArtistAustra
Album:  Future Politics

ArtistPeter Mulvey
AlbumAre You Listening 

Artists:  Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up 

ArtistAlgiers
AlbumThe Underside of Power 

ArtistDowntown Boys
AlbumCost of Living 

Previously: