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The Battle of Algiers(1966)
True-to-life chronicle of the Algerian people's struggle to overthrow the French Colonial Government in the mid-1950s. The focus is on the leaders of the Liberation Movement and the French general who is driven obsessively with catching them.
For more about The Battle of Algiers and the The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray release, see the The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Writers: Franco Solinas, Gillo Pontecorvo
Starring: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Samia Kerbash, Ugo Paletti, Fusia El Kader
» See full cast & crew
The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 27, 2012
Winner of Golden Lion and FIPRESCI Awards at the Venice Film Festival, Gillo Pontecorvo's "La battaglia di Algeri" a.k.a "The Battle of Algiers" (1966) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Argent Films. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailers; video interviews with director Gillo Pontecorvo, producer and head of FLN guerrillas Saadi Yacef, and FLN fighter Zohra Drif Bitat; video interviews with directors Ken Loach and Paul Greengrass; and a large gallery of stills. In French and Arabic, or Italian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region B/C "locked".
Despite winning the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1966, Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers remained banned in France and Britain until 1971. Before and after the film's premiere in Italy, various French politicians had expressed concerns over its support of the Algerian resistance, while the leaders of prominent right-wing organization had issued official warnings to theater managers across France not to include the film in their plans if they wished to stay in business. Today the "Algerian issue" remains a touchy subject for many French politicians - and especially those on the right, such as Jean Marie Le Pen, the founder of the popular National Front, who believes that France needs to purge itself because immigrants from its former colonies are changing its identity.
Pontecorvo's film chronicles the final days of French rule in Algeria, France's oldest major colony. It is based on a book by Saadi Yacef, the military leader of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), who was captured by the French army in 1957 and later on sentenced to death. While in prison, Yacef described his experiences during the war.
The film resembles a documentary feature one is likely to see on CNN. It is divided into various uneven episodes, each highlighting important locations, dates, and events. Some of the episodes also feature short commentaries.
The focus of attention is primarily on the formation and establishment of the FLN - a powerful organization with strategically positioned cells operating across the Casbah, the poorest quarter of Algiers. From the Casbah, the cells launch a series of attacks against the wealthier Christian quarter and later on specific military targets all across Algiers. The killings are often very graphic and the explosions shockingly realistic. A special note at the end of the film, however, clarifies that "not even one foot of newsreel or documentary film is included in this picture".
What makes the film so fascinating to behold is its incredibly accurate description of what is essentially a terrorist (by way of functionality) organization, from its "head", the Executive Bureau, down to its individual cells, whose members are intentionally kept unaware of each others' existence. Sad but true: Al-Queda's structure very much reminds about FLN's.
The FLN and the disturbing actions of its members are portrayed in a very positive light. Naturally, depending on one's political orientation, today the FLN members could be seen either as freedom fighters or terrorists. During the 1960s, the popular notion was that the FLN members were freedom fighters.
Ultimately, Pontecorvo's film feels just as relevant today - with the conflicts in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Iraq looking disturbingly similar to the one chronicled in the film - as it was some forty-five years ago. All of the knowledge channeled through it reflects what we have come to know about contemporary organized terrorism. Only the definitions and labels we use are different, as political correctness dictates they should be.
Note: In 1967, The Battle of Algiers was nominated for Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (Italy). Two years later, it was again nominated for Oscar awards for Best Director (Gillo Pontecorvo) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen (Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo).
The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Argent Films.
The high-definition transfer uses the same recent restoration of The Battle of Algiers Criterion had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release for the U.S. market. Unsurprisingly, the basics are virtually identical - detail and clarity are excellent, especially during the nighttime sequences, while contrast levels remain stable. The overwhelming majority of the close-ups convey very pleasing depth, while the panoramic vistas look notably crisp (see screencapture #14). Though there are some minor fluctuations, clearly inherited from the original elements, color reproduction is also convincing. The blacks and grays, in particular, have benefited greatly from the transition to 1080p. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern. There are no traces of problematic degraining corrections either. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is a competent and much needed Region-B English-friendly release of Gillo Pontecorvo's timeless film that should not be missed by serious film aficionados. (Note: This Blu-ray disc has been locked for Regions B and C. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B, Region-C or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (with portions of Arabic and English). For the record, Argent Films have provided optional light yellow English subtitles for the main feature.
The French lossless audio track opens up the film very well in all the right places. For example, during the chase scenes in the Casbah and some of the shootouts the percussion solos sound fuller and thicker. Overall crispness is also marginally improved when one compares the lossless track to the lossy track from Criterion's R1 DVD release (unfortunately, I don't have a R2 DVD copy of this film in my library). The English translation is excellent.
The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you reside in a Region-B country and could not take advantage of Criterion's outstanding Blu-ray release of Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers, one of the most important political films ever made, you should consider purchasing the Argent Films release. It uses the same excellent Cinecitta restoration and comes with plenty of excellent supplemental materials. This is an essential film that belongs in every serious collection, folks. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Battle of Algiers Blu-ray - March 23, 2012
In an early announcement to retailers, British distributors Argent Films have revealed that they are planning to release on Blu-ray Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo's La battaglia di Algeri a.k.a The Battle of Algiers (1966). The preliminary release date set by ...
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