Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Battle of Algiers/The Lost Command, Here's A Couple

I'd rather be waterboarded! A tender scene from Battle of Algiers. Remember, when
they do it, it's torture. When we do it, it's "enhanced interrogation". Definitions are
important after all. Credit: Rizzoli

                         Battle of Algiers/The Lost Command, Here's A Couple


                                                                    Jay Agan

      Had heard/read about Battle of Algiers a few years back, but the then Criterion price made me back off. Was at the Lane Ave. Half Price Books in Columbus last Saturday. Finding nothing, I was about out the back door when I glanced down while passing the processing/recieving desk. Battle jumped off the stacks into my hot little hands.

      The Gillo Pontecorvo film covers the Algerian insurrection of 57-60 (With a glance at 60-62.) wherin Algeria won its independance from France. Filmed in black & white on location in parts in the claustrophobic confines of the Casbah, one views a close, gritty, noir-like world of move/countermove. While a political thriller/drama, it has the feel of a documentary.

      While obvious Pontecorvos' film is to garner sympathy for the revolution, one can't help but feel hostility towards those who target civilians. The backshooting of policemen (About three times in the film.) is chilling as well though it's later shown as "justified" in the authorities use of torture ..... er, uh enhanced interrogation. Things must be kept in proper perspective. After all, it's not fascism if the right people are doing it.

      Now I realize that one must get "down & dirty" as the enemy does in order to be effective. But let's cut the crap. Torture is torture no matter who does it. Playing with words/definitions changes nothing. If "our" side does it let's call it what it is.

Alain Delon & Anthony Quinn get their point across in The Lost Command.
Credit: Columbia Pictures
      After I viewed Battle, I got out an old favorite, The Lost Command. One can't help but wonder if Mark Robson had Gillos' film in mind (George Segal even plays a protagonist named Mahidi.).

      Anthony Quinn plays Colonel Raspeguy, fresh out of POW interment in Viet Nam itching for a new command & getting it: The suppression of the FLN in Algeria. Pressed by circumstances, sometimes caused by "enthusiastic" subordinates, he gets the job done but at the cost of becoming "more like" the enemy. The story ends with Alain Delons' character noting, in spite of a political/military victory, the struggle goes on.

Article copyright © 8-31-2011 Jay Agan

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