83 Great Directors: Gillo Pontecorvo

“About three years ago the BBC defined my work as “the dictatorship of truth”. In my cinema, when faced with the choice of distancing oneself from reality or using an effect that might be used to win the popularity with the public, I always renounce these possibilities and stay close to reality.”

What Got This Director Here?
: Battle of Algiers.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: N/A.

What Did I Watch: Battle of Algiers.

Where Does He Fit: The Battle of Algiers is arguably the most important film I have ever seen and probably the one single story I would ensure that everyone on the planet saw (although I have no doubt the takeaway for some would be “ugh Muslims” because people are idiots on multiple levels), and getting to experience it for the first time on the big screen with a 4K restoration (still grainy looking, but deliberately and with plenty of clarity in the colors and aesthetic) is a pretty unforgettable viewing to start off what I hope will be more viewings in the future. We begin on a note that only somewhat sets the tone, with the pure misery to come as we are forced to bear witness to the phoniest documentary and realest fiction picture of them all, damn the other contenders…but also something that vaguely resembles a grossly racist humor in the cruelty of the French soldiers towards the torture victim, and a lack of music from Ennio Morricone’s astounding score that is normally underlining the silences to come over the many years of strikes and fights. This is a broken world that has been turned entirely political, with passions and affairs being irrelevant except as connections to be exploited by all sides. Has there ever been a better sequence put on film that so aptly sums up the nature of suspense and conflicting allegiances to the sides than the three women cutting their hair and carrying out the bombings, with furious drum beats as they lose their braids and go for a different style? It’s not black and white just by making the evil oppressors say some nice things. The closest thing to a good person is the police officer who saves the little boy from being assaulted by the rich white thugs at the horse race bombing. The general is one of the scariest villains on screen, especially with the knowledge that this was screened for the Pentagon as a method of ensuring that people like the Algerians would be much less successful, justness of their cause be damned. Pontecorvo is always on the side of the Algerians, but they do not get off the hook for the acts they committed, they are a necessary evil and nothing noble except in the very abstract sense that it freed them from colonialism. Progress and revolution are bloody; regression is even worse. Life sucks sometimes.


Most Valuable Asset: Aggressive realism.
Most Excited For: Kapo.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes.

Coming Up Next: Jean-Pierre Melville, rock hard French New Wave filmmaker.


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