‘Betrayal’ in Algiers

No, but I like him even less as a foe.‘ – French Paratrooper commander in Algeria, Colonel Phillippe Mathieu on Sartre

There is another Algiers and a different Casbah than that depicted in John Cromwell’s ‘Algiers’.

The ‘real’ Casbah was the headquarters of the FLN – the Algerian resistance from 1954 till 1962. The FLN was routed by a French Lt. Colonel Mathieu, a veteran of La Salle Guerre (the dirty war) in Vietnam.

During the film Colonel Phillippe Mathieu asked: Why are all the Sartres born on the other side?

When asked whether he liked the anti-colonial intellectual, Jean-Paul Sartre, Colonel Mathieu’s response was tinged with an understanding of the power of Sartre’s words:

'No, but I like him even less as a foe.'   

The colonel used torture, informants and military repression to break the cell structure of the FLN. For more on Algiers and film noir see

The Battle of Algiers matched the brutality of the US military in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers depicted the savagery.

Battle is about a different kind of betrayal than Algiers, political, not personal.

Notes by Ian Curr


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