First up on Blu Monday we have The Battle of Algiers, the latest release from Criterion. With this two disc Blu Ray release The Battle of Algiers has never looked better. The newly restored presentation has given the film a new life and restoring it to near visual perfection. Supervised by director of photography the digital restoration not only focused on the film’s visual brilliance it also brought to light the uncompressed monaural soundtrack. For fans of the film I think it’s safe to say that this is the definitive version and worthy of any upgrade.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the French classic, The Battle of Algiers is a recount of the struggle for independence by Algerian rebels against their French occupants. The visually shocking film shows the brutality of war and the places it forces us to go. Shown through the eyes of Ali (Brahim Haggiag) the leader of the Algerian rebel force mostly through flashbacks, the film is a truthful account of the Battle of Algiers. The film traces the rebels’ struggle and the increasingly extreme measures taken by the French government to stop what soon becomes a nationwide revolt.
Along with the newly restored film, the Blu Ray release is packed with special features including six documentaries discussing the film and its subject matter. For fans of film the most interesting supplement is its interviews with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone discussing how the film influenced them, and how it changed film today. The sheer amount of content found on the Blu Ray release is just jaw dropping and in its self-worth the purchase.
The Battle of Algiers is a must see for fans of film and with this newly restored edition it’s hard to argue that it should be seen any other way. That is why I am giving The Battle of Algiers a BUY IT on Blu Ray.
Next up from Criterion is Roman Polanski’s Cul-De-Sac, the 1996 release that Polanski has been referenced as saying is his best work. Cul-De-Sac is the story of George a newly married man that is having a hard time standing up to his wife’s infidelity and the aggression of their new captor. The gangster on the run played by Lionel Stander is an overly aggressive brute that is attempting to escape from a job gone wrong. With his injured partner in tow the two find themselves the new residents of an island castle that holds more than an interesting exterior. The story of one man’s struggle to find his inner courage in the most terrifying of situations is what makes Cul-De-Sac great.
Though at times I did find the film hard to watch, mostly due to the pure unlikability of the characters, by the end I was completely turned around. It’s in the final minutes of the film that it really lives and dies. Cul-De-Sac is not a film to be enjoyed by all but the select few that it is for will enjoy it immensely. On Blu Ray the film really shines, the restoration is perfect with only a few artifacts to be seen. While the film doesn’t even come close to the special feature content of The Battle of Algiers, hearing the stories of its creation is still interesting.
Polanski’s discussions about unruly actors and shooting multiple takes on a limited budget are fantastic. The sheer honesty of all involved in the film’s documentary is at times shocking. Nothing is held back and the audience reaps all the benefits. Also included in bonus content is an interview with Polanski from 1967, this is an interesting look at the young filmmaker. Overall the film looks and sounds fantastic on Blu Ray and the supplements are nothing to disregard. The only real problem I had with the film was the story itself. While the end was extremely rewarding the journey to get there may not add up to the prize. I can’t recommend this film to most so I am giving Cul-De-Sac on Blu Ray a RENT IT.
That is it for this week’s Blu Monday as always let me know what you thought in the comments below and check back next week for more Blu Ray releases.
By Ryan Davis