‘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 https://workersbushtelegraph.com.au/film-noir/

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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