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(aka "J'ai vu tuer Ben Barka" or "Ich sah den Mord an Ben Barka ")

 

directed by Serge Le Péron and Saïd Smihi
France/Morocco 2005

 

In the wholly engrossing I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed, Serge le Peron, yet another Cahiers du Cinema critic turned director, sets out to answer [the] question [what happened to Ben Barka] and to recreate that now distant, turbulent, traumatised Paris of the de Gaulle era that two years later was to explode in les evenements of 1968. This is not a biopic about Ben Barka and his revolutionary circle. Instead, le Peron and his co-screenwriters, Frederique Moreau and Said Smihi, have made a political thriller drawing stylistically on the conspiracy movies that Francesco Rosi and Costa-Gavras were beginning to make in the Sixties and the series of coolly detached crime pictures that Jean-Pierre Melville had embarked on at that time.

This is appropriate because film-making, a Parisian passion then as now, is central to the events. After a scene-setting montage using newsreel footage to depict a world in revolutionary turmoil (Castro in Cuba, Che instructing rebels in Latin America, a Chinese crowd waving Mao's Little Red Book, the escalating war in Vietnam, Congo following the murder of Lumumba), the movie is narrated by its central figure, the extraordinary 38-year-old Georges Figon (Charles Berling).

Figon was a product of a well-off bourgeois family, an unrepentant professional criminal who'd become, like Jean Genet before him, the darling of Left Bank intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre and novelist and film-maker Marguerite Duras. As in Sunset Boulevard, however, the ironic narrator is already dead when the film begins, 'suicided' in his Parisian apartment by the authorities in January 1966, and the picture unfolds non-chronologically in three chapters. The story is altogether remarkable and Charles Berling is Figon to the life as described by one of his first interviewers, Peter Lennon, who was keeping Guardian readers colourfully informed about Paris at the time.

Excerpt of review from Philip French located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: November 2nd, 2005 (France)

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:37:48
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.67 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with Serge Le Peron (31:15)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: Feb 12th, 2007
Keep Case

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Out of the dozen or so releases that I've recently viewed from Artificial Eye, I can say that hands down, their edition of "I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed" is the most impressive that I've come across. The film is quite good and the image and audio impressive as well. While I'll have more to say on them later, let's begin by discussing the film. Although the the film fits into the political thriller mold, I can't really think of any other film that its comparable. The closest analogy that I can come up with would be Oliver Stone's "JFK" in that both deal with allegedly governmental conspiracies to assassinate a world leader. Both films present us with the a version of events surrounding the assassination (or in this case disappearance), but where Stone left his audience with speculation and conspiracy theories, Le Peron holds that everything presented on screen is officially documented. While the film probably shouldn’t be mistaken for history, it does make for some damn fine entertainment.

The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. The image is quite lovely and never suffers from any damage or artificial manipulations. The colors always look spot on and the flesh tones always appear realistic. While this isn’t a perfect image, it’s very good for standard DVD and should look very impressive on most systems.

Continuing one of their more recent practices, Artificial Eye includes both Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 tracks with this release. Both sound quite good, but predictably the 5.1 comes away as the clear winner. However, neither track suffers from any real problems. The music and dialogue are both always clear and there are never any problems with any background noises. Finally, as the first capture illustrates, the optional English subtitles are white with black outlines and are always readable without being intrusive.

Aside from a trailer and the typical Artificial Eye biography, the only extra is an interview with director Serge Le Peron. The track is quite good, with the responses given in both English and French. While I find his claim that no liberties were taken with the story rather unlikely, the information that he gives on the film and its cinematic influences is quite welcome.

Le Peron’s film is a tight and powerful indictment of Western policies during the Cold War, when human life was less important that ideological adherence. Its well worth a viewing and thanks to Artificial Eye, it’s available to those with access to region 2 in a pretty good edition. Recommended.

 - Brian Montgomery

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 2 - PAL

 




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