“The Battle of Algiers” (La battaglia di Algeri, 1966), Gillo Pontecorvo’s fictional documentary classic of the mechanics of terrorism and counterterrorism is a tense, crack thriller and one of the greatest films to draw a portrait of both sides of urban conflict.
Drawing on the history of the three-year Battle of Algiers of the 1950s between the occupying French military and Algerian guerillas fighting for independence, Pontecorvo and co-writer Franco Solinas don’t waste a breath. The vital vérité simulation could be readily taken for newsreel footage. “BoA” remains as compelling as it must have been upon its original release fifty years ago, and as telling about guerrilla warfare as ever. (The torture scenes are brutal.) It’s a shocking masterpiece. Pontecorvo and Ennio Morricone’s score is exquisite percussive accompaniment to both strategy and mayhem. 123m. (Ray Pride)
“Battle of Algiers” opens Friday, October 14 at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.