Monday, September 16, 2019

Film Study: Algiers (1938) and The Battle of Algiers (1966)

The first two movies we will be studying are linked by place, but not by impact. Algiers (1938) is a remake of the movie Pepe le Moko (1937) based on the novel by Henri La Barthe, a French journalist, detective and writer. Both movies share the same plot, a wanted gangster hides in the Casbah in Algiers protected by friends and the woman who loves him. Things change when he meets another woman visiting from Paris.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Algiers_1938_Poster.jpg

Algiers (1938)  John Cromwell is the director, he prolifically directed 50 movies during his career including The Prisoner of Zenda and Of Human Bondage . He also directed Anna and the King of Siam which Rogers and Hammerstein later adapted into the musical The King and I, a film we will watch during our unit on musicals. 

The movie stars Charles Boyer, Hedy Lamarr, and Sigrid Gurie. Boyer, who we will see again in Gaslight during our look at Film Noir, was famous for his smooth charm and wonderful French accent. Hedy, whose first name is actually Hedwig!, made her Hollywood debut in this movie. She had starred in several movies in Germany before coming to the United States. She was also very intelligent and patented a way for changing radio frequencies during radio transmission to stop signal blocking. After making just a few movies, Sigrid transitioned to creating art including paintings and jewelry. 

While watching Algiers (1938) we want to look at setting. We will book trying to answer the following questions:
  1. What is the Casbah?
  2. Where is Algiers?
  3. Why are the French in charge of the police and military in Algiers at this time?
  4. Is there a political bias in this film? 
  5. What connection does Pepe Le Pew have with this movie?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pep%C3%A9_Le_Pew.svg
The second movie we are going to watch is The Battle of Algiers. This movie will be a completely different style of movie from Algiers (1938). The first is more of a standard film noir, while The Battle of Algiers (1966) is a much, much different style of movie. It is considered to be a neorealist style, which means it seems real, although it isn't. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Battle_of_Algiers_poster.jpg

Battle of Algiers was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, an Italian film maker. One of the stars, Saddi Yacef, has a very special tie to the film which we will discuss.

The movie is based on the Algerian War (1954-1962) which eventually led to the departure of French forces and the finish of French control in Algeria. The film depicts accurately portrayed bombings and terrorist attacks from the war. According to Wikipedia, "The Battle of Algiers gained a reputation for inspiring political violence: in particular the tactics of urban guerrilla warfare and terrorism in the movie were supposedly copied by the Black Panthers, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front."

Again we will be revisiting setting in this film as well as discussing the following questions:
  1. What impact did this film have worldwide?
  2. Which side, as depicted in the film, is morally superior?
  3. how did the style of film affect your understanding?
  4. At any time during the film did you think you were watching real footage from the war? 
Interestingly enough both films were nominated for Academy Awards. Algiers received four nominations while The Battle of Algiers earned three, but neither won. Which movies won the awards in those nominated categories?

No comments: