In French with English subtitles
It says something when people have to point out
that no scene in a film comes from archival or documentary
footage. Made in 1965, Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The
Battle of Algiers” records the French occupation
of Algeria and the terrorist attacks that resulted
in opposition, and shows both sides escalating an
already bad situation.
Bombings that occur in the Muslim quarter offend
an already upset population, and Algeria’s
National Liberation Front terrorist organization
escalates its attacks from police assassinations
to bombing public places full of innocent people.
The film challenges both the French government’s
attempts to silence the call for independence and
the terrorists’ random bombings.
While Pontecorvo may have sympathized with the terrorists’ positions,
he films every action similarly to how it happened,
making all the violence look unnecessary. The tense
score by Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo adds even
more urgency to each scene.
The new release of the film includes more complete
subtitles, which make the events clearer. In terms
of restoration, the picture is supposed to look gritty,
and still does, but is pristinely gritty.
The depiction of the riots, press conferences and
marching soldiers and the tragic outcome of the terrorist
bombings and French political positions are so authentic
that it seems like real documentary footage was edited
into the film’s dramatic aspects. Pontecorvo
reveals the reason behind both sides’ actions,
and questions the best way to enact a revolution.
Who wouldn’t want to spend 73 minutes with
a big, red dog? The only possible way this film could
maybe—just maybe—not blow you away is
if you’ve lived longer than four years.
“The Flower of Evil”
3 reels (out of four)
“13 Going on 30”
The charming Jennifer Garner, with the sexy Mark
Ruffalo among the supporting roles, tackles this “Big”-meets-“A
Christmas Carol” tale as a 13-year-old girl
who receives her wish to jump forward 17 years and
avoid all that pubescent unpleasantness. Of course,
it turns out that she’s a bit of a bitch now,
but maybe her sweet prepubescent heart can turn her
“Man on Fire”
20th Century Fox
(out of four)
Before “Man of Fire” turns into a standard
revenge film with odd visual ticks, it has an impressive
hour of touching drama. Denzel Washington plays an
ex-military assassin who now drinks heavily—he
dumps his entire flask into a small cup of soda.
Upon the advisement of his old friend (Christopher
Walken), he gets a job as a security guard for a
little girl, as there’s a kidnapping in Latin
America every hour and it’s both a status symbol
and a serious concern for wealthy families.
Dakota Fanning plays the child of a Mexican businessman
(Marc Anthony) and his American wife (Radha Mitchell),
whose origin, as discernible from her accent, ranges
from the deep south to anywhere in America. The girl
slowly cracks her guard’s shell, and their
relationship is really quite touching.
Unfortunately, odd, ineffective MTV-style editing
and endless revenge investigations mar the last 90
minutes of the film.
Instead of conventional subtitles, the film uses
conspicuously designed titles that scroll the text
and use varying font sizes. It doesn’t only
subtitle Spanish, but some accented English and,
in one scene, Washington’s English dialogue.
This method, along with director Tony Scott’s
tinkering with a flickering picture and aperture,
are failed elements that don’t serve the film’s
purpose. I’d think the fast editing was an
attempt at experimentation, but I think Scott was
simply trying to make his opening and a few random
moments look like a trailer rather than a film.
If you can forgive the film’s shortcomings,
it actually has some very worthwhile stuff in it,
including the performances by Washington, Walken
and Fanning. The ending even still has some power,
despite the murky middle.