#206: The Battle of Algiers (1966)

When and how did I watch this?

October 19th, 2015, on Hulu Plus.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

I had to read up on the Algerian revolution. It was a quick Wikipedia skim, but having some familiarity helped, and it can be assumed that most French viewers would have been quite familiar with the event as well.

What do I know about it now?

The movie started and ended ominously.  The whole war appeared to be an unsteady affair, which is precisely what the film succeeded in portraying — much like a few more recent wars, it was difficult for both sides to determine who the enemies were.  Much of it was set in a harsh, dense environment, further accentuated with the black and white picture. Bombings and gunfire abounded, only spaced out with momentary but tense negotiations and desperate situations. It was chaotic, scary, and intriguing. At times I forgot I was watching a movie rather than news reels of the long skirmish.

Did this affect me personally?

Mostly as an informative historical piece. Otherwise, not really.

Why is this ranked #207?

It’s better than Elite Squad (a similar film) and Three Colors: Red (another French-based film), but not even close to La Haine, which is ranked several spots lower. The vivid aspects of the film might have captured French viewers’ attention, but I’m not sure why it’s up this high. There are precedents to this war film, but perhaps not French ones.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She thought it was okay.

Would I watch it again?

Perhaps for clarity.  I was wrestling an infant for most of the film.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

I think it would illuminate the war for any American viewer who is ignorant of this particular revolution.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

I’m undecided.  I would say it did well covering this theater of the war, and avoided vilifying either side, but I wasn’t moved and there were none of those “moments” that usually characterize great films.  I presume it makes some commentary on the urban guerrilla warfare front, especially in the context of the current Iraq and Afghanistan situations, but its presentation was at times dramatic and at others a bit sloppy (awkward cuts, expressionless characters, funny looking “deaths”, etc). It’s very good, but because of its inconsistency, it could shuffle off the list and I wouldn’t even notice.

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