Thursday, 8 February 2018

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS BLU-RAY review

Released this week in a newly re-mastered special edition is Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers.

Set during the Algerian War of the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Battle of Algiers sees a band of freedom fighters push back against the restrictions imposed by the French military forces that controlled the streets of Algiers. Following the story of Ali La Pointe (Omar Hadjadj) from petty thief to leader of a group of insurgents, it pits him against Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin) as he attempts to bring the streets under control.

The Battle of Algiers has long been regarded as one of the most important war films of all time. Released in 1966 a mere four years after the conflict came to an end, it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year but due to the controversy surrounding it was not widely released in France until 1971. Adopting what they refer to as a "newsreel" (read, documentary) shooting style to create added realism, what is notable about this film is that although it arguably errs its allegiance to the freedom fighters, it offers unglamorous viewpoints of both sides of the war in all its ghastly detail.

Hounded by the military and forced to live in wall spaces in the casbah, the FLN (National Liberation Front) are seen to use women and children to help fight their cause, often during the numerous and shocking assassination scenes that see soldiers killed by calculated and unexpected methods. Another notable contribution to these scenes is the score provided by Ennio Morricone. It's a vital, urgent piece of music that propels the film towards its dramatic conclusion.

As important a film now as it was 50 years ago, The Battle of Algiers is not just an important document of the impact this war had on the steep, winding streets of the casbah and the propaganda used by the French military to persuade the inhabitants that their way was the only way forward, it is a strikingly timeless film about the power wielded by the oppressed that should be never far from the thoughts of any government contemplating war. Impactful and resonant, this is one to watch.

Verdict
5/5

With its slipcase, booklet, reversible sleeve and two disc blu-ray and DVD combo, it really is an attractive package. What's more, the in depth documentary on the special features shows how this classic war film was painstakingly restored and reconstructed by a lab in Italy. For fans of cinema and those curious about how these 4K restorations are put together, this is a brilliantly revealing look at what it takes.

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