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The Battle of Algiers: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]

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Editorial Reviews

One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo (Kapò), vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s. As violence escalates on both sides, children shoot soldiers at point-blank range, women plant bombs in cafés, and French soldiers resort to torture to break the will of the insurgents. Shot on the streets of Algiers in documentary style, the film is a case study in modern warfare, with its terrorist attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them. Pontecorvo’s tour de force has astonishing relevance today.


Special Features

High-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Marcello Gatti, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship of Truth, a documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said

Marxist Poetry: The Making of “The Battle of Algiers,” a documentary featuring interviews with Pontecorvo, Gatti, composer Ennio Morricone, and others

Interviews with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone on the film’s influence, style, and importance

Remembering History, a documentary reconstructing the Algerian experience of the battle for independence

“États d’armes,” a documentary excerpt featuring senior French military officers recalling the use of torture and execution to combat the Algerian rebellion

“The Battle of Algiers”: A Case Study, a video piece featuring U.S. counterterrorism experts

Gillo Pontecorvo’s Return to Algiers, a documentary in which the filmmaker revisits the country after three decades of independence

Production gallery

Theatrical and rerelease trailers

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Peter Matthews, excerpts from Algeria’s National Liberation Front leader Saadi Yacef’s original account of his arrest, excerpts from the film’s screenplay, a reprinted interview with cowriter Franco Solinas, and biographical sketches of key figures in the French-Algerian War


Product Details

  • Actors: Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Samia Kerbash, Fusia El Kader
  • Directors: Gillo Potecorvo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Arabic, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: August 9, 2011
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005152CB4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,532 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Folantin HALL OF FAME on June 13, 2004
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
"The Battle of Algiers" is the story of a revolution. The film--based on real events--begins in 1954 with Ali-La-Pointe--an illiterate, unemployed ex-boxer. He winds up in prison, and it's there that he begins to identify with the F.N.L.--the National Liberation Front. The F.N.L.'s goal is an independent Algeria--free from French occupation--ruled "with a framework of Islamic principles." Once out of prison, Ali joins the F.N.L and begins 'cleansing' the Casbah (the Muslim section of Algiers) of undesirable Algerians who dabble in prostitution, narcotics and alcohol. The film shifts focus from Ali to the uprising against French Occupation. The situation subtly escalates--French police who sit peacefully drinking coffee in street cafes are murdered, and anti-Arab feelings mount. With a momentum of its own, the situation is blown beyond all control--terrorism is rampant--cafes, air terminals, and racetracks are all targets. Naturally, the French respond, but terrorism still increases, and French officials bump up against such bureaucratic necessities as search warrants and paperwork. Soon the French are behind sandbags and barbed wire, and the Muslim population of the Casbah are subject to checkpoints manned by French soldiers. At this point, seasoned warrior French Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu arrives. While the French residents of Algiers welcome his arrival, Mathieu's march though the streets ultimately seems sinister. He's a career soldier, highly principled in his own way--and he's there to win.
Mathieu doesn't mess about. He takes control of the situation and tells his officers "to succumb to humane considerations only leads to hopeless chaos." Strategy dramatically changes as Mathieu methodically rounds up and tortures Algerians.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By DVD Verdict on August 17, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
Judge Gordon Sullivan, DVD Verdict-- There are so many obvious places to go when discussing The Battle of Algiers. It's almost certainly an accident (though one never knows) that the film was originally released by Criterion on DVD just as the whole Abu Ghraib torture scandal was heating up. It's easy to talk about the debate between terrorist and "freedom fighter," and how it's easy to look at the French as evil and the NLF as good because the Algerian's won their independence. The film also brings up the issues of acceptable tactics; is it okay to target civilians or use children to conduct urban warfare?

Certainly The Battle of Algiers raises these questions, and more--more than most films in the history of cinema. However, what is truly striking about The Battle of Algiers is not the historical moment it attempts to recreate, nor the ethical questions it raises. The most striking thing about The Battle of Algiers is its cinematic achievements. Viewers who know nothing, and care even less, about Algerian political history or revolutions in general can marvel at the tense plotting and amazing visual of the film. Long before faux documentary became the rage, The Battle of Algiers takes a stark, black-and-white look at the world of Algerian resistance. In the extras we learn that the film was at one time proceeded by the warning that none of the footage was from documentaries or newsreels. Honestly, they could have fooled me. There's an immediacy to the presentation of this film that goes far beyond its "ripped from the headlines" story.

In fact, the immediacy of the visuals and the story go a long way towards deflating the expectations generated by decades of constant praise.
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88 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Swederunner on October 25, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Battle of Algiers displays the occupied Algeria attempt to fight for freedom as they have been under French rule since the 1830's. A little background history would enlighten the audience as the invasion of North Africa, Land of the Berbers, by the French in the 1830's was instigated by 300 years of "pirating" ships in the Mediterranean and raids of southern Europe, which enslaved many Europeans that were brought to Africa. However, the French occupation brought great injustices to the Algerian people as they are treated as second class citizens. In addition, the French controlled the markets, resources, and jobs, which only further the lives of the French citizens.

The injustices forced upon the Algerians to live in poverty, unemployment, societal harassment, and unequal rights. Consequently, the Algerians begin to rise against the injustice, but the unequal military force drives the Algerian freedom fighters to exercise terrorism and other hideous acts of violence. This violence is fed by further aggression from the French police as it escalates the violence from both sides.

The story begins with a man being humanely treated after a rough bout of torture as persecuting soldiers blame the man for the excessive torture, as all he had to do was to tell them what they wanted to know. The tortured man has just revealed the whereabouts of a known terrorist and he is in emotional agony as he is aware of what he has just done. They dress the agonized man in a French camouflage uniform, and depart to capture the freedom fighter.

The freedom fighter, Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), hides in a secret room behind a wall with three others.
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The Battle of Algiers: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]
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