Friday, June 22, 2012

Chronicle of the Years of Fire (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)
Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)
Palme d'Or Winner
Genre: Drama
Director: Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina
Starring: Yorgo Voyagis, Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, Leila Shenna
Language: Arabic, French
Duration: 177 min.
Rating: 8.5
Summary:
An epic following a peasant's migration from his drought-stricken village to his eventual participation with the resistance movement, just prior to the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence.
Chronicle of the Years of Fire also known as Chronicle of the Burning Years, is a film written and directed by Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. It won the Palme d'Or at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.

Despite winning one of cinema's most prestigious prizes, Chronicle remains largely unseen and unheard of. Partly owing to its long running time of nearly three-hours, its strong political bent, and its sweeping, often fragmented narrative; which combine to make it a hard sell to all but the most hard-core of film lovers. Not to mention, the film has long been nearly impossible to find except on VHS tape hidden away in library archives.

However, underneath its overt political exterior and its epic ambitions, there is a delicate personal story to be found. The film relays the tragedy of colonialism, through the eyes of those affected the most; the common citizen.

The film is comprised of six chapters, titled The Years of Ashes, The Years of Embers, The Years of Fire, The Year of the Cart, The Year of the Massacre, and November 11, 1954; and the story follows Ahmad (played by Greek actor Yorgo Voyagis), a poor farmer who starts out living with his family in a tiny decrepit village where the rivers are dry, and the land is barren. Through the course of the film which spans between the beginning of the Second World War to the start of the Algerian Revolution; we witness Ahmad go through difficult times, each one more brutal and tragic than the other, and we see that it's not necessarily radical religion or oppressive politics that give rise to revolution, but a much simpler explanation, that of just trying to survive.

Throughout the film there is also one other prominent character who appears from time to time, a homeless madman by the name of Miloud (played amusingly by the director himself), who serves as an unofficial narrator, providing some comic relief, while preaching mostly to an empty graveyard, with remarkable wisdom on the mostly terrible events that will unfold.

What's immediately noticeable is this was no ordinary production. Every scene is a triumph in staging and choreography, and there are many large scale set pieces filled with extras, along with sequences which rival the best of Hollywood epics, often shot from wide and ultra wide angles by famed cinematographer Marcello Gatti (The Battle of Algiers) to really capture the immense scope of the action.

One of these scenes in particular is simply one of the most astonishing pieces of action I have ever seen. Featuring a large crowd of unarmed protestors who are chased and corralled into the city square, and then slaughtered by dozens of mounted cavalry. A full five minutes of absolute chaos and mayhem, and done with no special effects; I would be amazed if no one was seriously hurt in its filming, and I'm certain that no director could get away with something so dangerous today. See it here.

Chronicle, is an extraordinary film. One whose message remains just as important and relevant now as ever, and it's a shame that it has been neglected for so long. It's the perfect companion piece, heck almost a prequel, to The Battle of Algiers, and is just begging for a digital restoration. Hopefully some brave distributor will give it the treatment it deserves.   
Bonjour Tristesse
Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

Chronicle of the Years of Fire • Chronique des années de braise (1975)

7 comments:

Steven Flores said...

Is there a good print that is ever going to come out. I want to see this. Someone give this film a proper release... come on Criterion!

d_4 said...

I admit.. I'm scared of this one. But if it did get redone I'd at the least put it on the list. It's still a scary thought, though.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I hope so. Criterion should stop dicking around with all those easy to find David Fincher and Danny Boyle flicks, and bring us more of these.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Scared of the subject or of its length?

d_4 said...

With that subject, if the length were shorter it probably wouldn't be scary at all. There's few films I can watch with that length and enjoy, though. I guess it's mostly length.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah that makes sense. For me if the film is good I don't mind if its 8 hours long, but if its bad, I get restless during an 80 minute flick.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Long-pacing movies becomes boring along the way. Not to mention the cinematography but its the story that makes me stay on my couch.

Best Regards,
LucianaDMcCarville

searched it

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