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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Double Feature: A Century of War

In a special year-end publication, the French newspaper Le Monde calls the hundred years just ending, 1914-2014, “Un Siecle de Guerre,” a century of war.  The editors divide it into four periods of conflict – World War One, World War Two, the Cold War and Decolonization, 1945-1991, and Separatism and Terrorism, 1991-2014.  These hundred years have been, and will be, the subject of myriad histories.

But a great work of art is worth a hundred history books.  In my opinion, if you want to understand the last century, skip the political and military potboilers, and see just two great movies:  Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion,” from 1935, and Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers,” from 1966.  "Grand Illusion” ushers in the collapse of European civilization from 1914 to 1945.   “The Battle of Algiers” is all you need to know about the clash of civilizations that has roiled the world ever since.