Thursday, January 13, 2011

Days of Glory

aka Indigènes (Algeria-Morocco-France-Belgium)
Rachid Bouchareb, 2006 (9.3*)A ten-year project for director Bouchareb, who had to research this story by spending a year interviewing survivors of WW2, then around 80-90 years old who fought for Algeria and Morocco in liberating France, which were around 200,000 in total number. He then completely story boarded the film with over 900 drawings.

The story follows four soldiers in one unit from Algeria, and their sergeant from Morocco, beginning with the invasion of Italy and continuing through France. The acting is uniformly superb, and all the male lead actors won best actor at Cannes as a group. The action is at the level of Patton and Saving Private Ryan, perhaps a bit more Hollywood looking, but then it was made for just around 15 million - here it would have been a 50m epic from Spielberg or Eastwood and been nominated for 8 Oscars. Personally, I think the acting is better than either of these American films, far more realistic and credible overall; there are no hams in this group because there are no stars. (Of course, Scott needed to be over the top because George Patton was also, certainly 'bigger than life' compared to the unheralded infantryman.)

In actuality, it grossed only 300k in the U.S., which means it was seen by less than 100,000 people. That's a crime for a war film this good. Perhaps its because a large part of the story's intent is to enlighten us to the untold story of North African fighters who were largely ignored by history and the French government. There are also issues of prejudice between the Moroccans and Algerians, and of course major ones between the French and Algerian.

The war scenes are realistic and intense without excessive gore, and the overall pace held my interest until the end; it's a very finely crafted film. Overall, this is a film you won't easily forget. It should have won more awards worldwide, but did get nominated for 9 Cesars in France, and a foreign language Oscar® here, representing Algeria. [It was a tough year for that category, see my note below] Winner of 6 awards out of 18 nominations.

Note: the foreign language film academy award that (in 2007 for 2006 films) was a far better group than the main best picture films. The winner, The Lives of Others, is a great film about espionage of ordinary citizens. After the Wedding is my favorite Danish film, an all-time top 50 for me. Water, from Indian director Deepa Mehta, is her best to me, also one of my favorites of the decade. The only one I didn't like was a double Oscar® winner (Special effects, Makeup) and was favored here, Pan's Labyrinth. It's story wasn't nearly as compelling as the other four, which are all classics of their genres. I would have understood any of these winning except Pan's. Voters in this category have to attend pre-Oscar® screenings of all five in order to vote, so there's a more fair assessment than any other category. I agree with the choice, and Lives of Others is one of only 5 films in history to win both the US and British academy awards for foreign language film.


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Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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