The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 25: Destiny (1997)

The Youssef Chahine Podcast returns for a discussion of Destiny, with its images of book burnings, its themes of love and religious tolerance, its genre-bending mix of historical epic and musical extravaganza, and Chahine’s characteristic artfulness with the techne of filmmaking. This and other Chahine films are currently on Netflix in very good versions  with english sub-titles. .

 

The discussion brings takes on board points made by Laurie A. Fintke and Martin B. Schichtman in ‘Song, Dance and the Politics of Fanaticism: Youssef Chahine’s Destiny’  regarding the absence of Jews,  Jonathan Rosenbaum’s observation on musicals as well as a separate article also from The Chicago Tribune on the film:It’s as if Gene Kelly and Errol Flynn had joined forces for a movie bio of Aristotle.

. The podcast also comments on these clips:

 

the beginning:

Coming Out of Water:

A bath and a dance:

The End:

José Arroyo

Jeff Bridges Swoon in Winter Kills

 

It’s interesting to note how William Richert eroticises Jeff Bridges in Winter Kills

whilst in Fat City, he’s half naked throughout the movie boxing and John Huston/ Conrad Hall avoid eroticising him completely (or did they even think to?

 

 

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 24: L’autre/ The Other (Youssef Chahine, Egypt/France, 1999)

After a brief gap, José Arroyo and Richard Layne return for the 24th episode of the Youssef Chahine Pocast, an extended discussion of L’autre/ The Other, a film about Orientalism, Imperialism, Terrorism; an examination of class structures with a gender analysis; a film about a land and its people…yet one that also recalls popular melodramatic and glitzy works like Dynasty. Not quite top Chahine but a film that’s nonetheless made us think and that we’ve grown to love. Edward Said starts off the film with a delicious lecture/advice/framing paradigm:

 

The following excerpts are discussed in the podcast and should be of interest:

The discussion with Edward Said:

The fantasy sequence:

The hommage to Duvivier’s Carnet de bal

The sexual violence:

The end:

 

Disco scene:

Hacker Scene:

Connection to Dynasty:

 

Some of you may also be interested in this conversation with Marianne Khoury,  Youssef Chahine’s niece:

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 260 – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

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The winner of the 1971 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis tells an aching story of doomed love within a wealthy Jewish community in Fascist Italy. The 1938 racial laws, enforcing the segregation of Italian Jews, have just been introduced, but the titular family’s titular garden offers insulation from the rising tide of fascism – for a while.

Mike finds the film’s love triangle somewhat banal, but is impressed with the subtly observed way in which the central characters allow themselves to remain comfortably ignorant of the increasingly hostile and dangerous Italy beyond their walls; comparisons to frogs in saucepans abound, not to mention the present-day normalisation of absurd corruption and violence in the Greatest Country in the World™. José is more keen on the romance, but still, the film’s sociopolitical side remains our focus. We consider the film’s use of physical space, the ways in which the Jewish characters can navigate it without being suspected by the racist public, but find themselves eager to retreat to safety as the film develops. We note that The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was made 25 years after the end of the Second World War, but 50 years prior to today: it’s now conspicuously an historical artefact that speaks to the time in which it was made, and whose proximity to the horrors it dramatises is necessary to keep in mind. And Mike reflects on his relationship with his Jewishness in this day and age, and how the film demonstrates that whatever divisions we may find among ourselves, to those who hate us, there’s no distinction.

It’s also Bonfire Night – well, the day after, but it’s a Friday evening so the festivities continue – and we celebrate by closing the window and trying to ignore the fireworks going off outside.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 259 – Love Me Tonight

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We’re enraptured by a musical neither of has seen before, 1932’s Love Me Tonight, starring Maurice Chevalier as a charming and roguish Parisian tailor, and Jeanette MacDonald as a princess he falls for. Its soundtrack is peppered with Rodgers and Hart classics, and its stunning audiovisual design is endlessly experimental, expressive and exciting. In amongst our swooning over the film’s many pleasures, we find time to discuss the careers of Chevalier and director Rouben Mamoulian, discuss what makes it a uniquely American form of fairytale, and examine the fascinating censorship and production records made available on Kino Lorber’s special edition Blu-Ray.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 257 – Antz

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The second feature-length computer-animated film ever made, after Pixar’s groundbreaking Toy StoryAntz is an oddball. A public feud between Jeffrey Katzenberg and then-CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, led to Katzenberg founding Dreamworks SKG and subsequently feuding with Pixar’s John Lasseter, who was making the suspiciously similar – and ultimately more successful – A Bug’s Life. Pixar is the historically more successful and well-regarded studio, and the direct comparison between these two films usually sees Antz considered inferior, but Mike’s long been fond of it, and in revisiting it we discuss both how far it shows us animation has come in the last twenty years, and its many qualities, including its rather grown-up tone and references, imaginative and expressive visual design and cinematography, and witty dialogue.

Oh, and we try to work out how children think.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 258 – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

 

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Fourteen years have passed since Sacha Baron Cohen’s first tour of the USA as Borat, his friendly, clueless, and decidedly un-PC Kazakh journalist. Borat gave his unwitting participants, real people who didn’t know that he was a character, space and encouragement to display their bigotry, sexism, racism, and stupidity – now he’s back to do it again, in a world in which bigotry, sexism, racism and stupidity are no longer deemed necessary to hide.

Sexism in particular is this film’s bedrock, the film introducing a daughter, Tutar, who Borat didn’t know about, and when she stows away on her father’s trip, he decides to offer her to Mike Pence as a token of Kazakhstan’s friendship. Women are chattel, and the only objection raised when Borat decides to give the fifteen-year-old Tutar breast implants is that he can’t afford them. Women’s role as playthings for men, and the society that refuses to allow them control over their bodies, shape almost every scene, including a debutante ball, a conversation with a Christian doctor, and of course, THAT scene with Rudy Giuliani.

We also discuss the question of the reality of what we’re seeing and how the film’s camerawork and editing fails to convince us of it, how comedy has changed in the last decade and a half, and how the film unexpectedly gives its unwitting participants the opportunity to be tolerant and welcoming. And we each share memories of our grandmothers.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 256 – Playtime

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Jacques Tati’s masterpiece, 1967’s Playtime, is an extraordinarily ambitious work of visual comedy and social satire. Mike’s been keen to see this for fifteen years or more, knowing of its reputation for detailed visual design and the 70mm cinematography that shows it off, waiting for the right moment. José, when Mike suggests we watch it, thinks he’s seen it many years ago, but soon realises he was probably thinking of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Tati’s rather more charming comedy of fourteen years prior, so it takes him a while to get into Playtime‘s rather more offbeat gear.

And he is ultimately a little cold to the film, though not immune to its appeal and pleasures, while Mike loves it unconditionally. In a somewhat alternate, near-future Paris, the plot, such as it is, follows two characters: Monsieur Hulot, the character Tati played in several films, as he stumbles through a France he finds unfamiliar and devoid of humanity; and Barbara, an American tourist visiting the city. In approximately six fairly distinct vignettes, Tati explores a vision of a consumerist, modern, and alienating Paris, the Eiffel Tower, symbolising the warm, cosy Paris of old, a long way away, merely a distant feature on the horizon or a reflection in a window. It’s an attitude for which José has little sympathy, though Mike suggests that the development of the final scene, a kind of funfair around a traffic jam, can be seen as a synergy of the traditional and modern, and finds it moving.

There’s a huge amount to discuss, including the design and execution of the jokes; the impossible scale of the set, nicknamed ‘Tativille’ and whose astronomical cost would ruin Tati, who was forced to file for bankruptcy; to what other films, if any, it can be compared; the visual design, cinematography, choreography, and colour; the use of nationality, particularly American; and how the film might play differently today compared to upon its initial release – Mike arguing that it may have anticipated changes to the real world that would later materialise, such as the cubicle office, that diminish the otherworldliness we might otherwise feel.

Playtime is a significant work of satire and well worth seeing, particularly given its beautiful restoration in 2014. Don’t miss it for fifteen years. Don’t be Mike.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 255 – The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail

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One a great masterpiece of cinema, the other a cultural icon of its day, we compare and contrast Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner with Nora Ephron’s technologically updated remake, You’ve Got Mail. We discuss how each film treats its conceit of two people who dislike each other unwittingly falling in love over anonymous correspondence, the former film’s couple hating each other less vitriolically, the latter giving us more insight into the details of their messages; the latter making their story the entire focus, the former handling it as the main part of a range of stories that take place amongst its characters.

We consider whether James Stewart’s Alfred and Tom Hanks’s Joe are nice people, and what the films’ endings have to say about them and the women they fall for. José focuses on the films’ approach to class and power, praising The Shop Around the Corner‘s portrayal of working people and decrying You’ve Got Mail for barely even seeming to notice its uncritical acceptance of corporate power. And we consider more besides, including how Lubitsch’s camera makes a static setting evocative and expressive, that Godfather bit, and the similarities and differences in Hanks and Stewart’s often-compared personas.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies254 – L.A. Confidential

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A corrupt police force intersects with the glamour of Hollywood in L.A. Confidential, the tightly-plotted neo-noir that won the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress in a year dominated by Titanic, and established the status and careers of Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey. Over twenty years since its enormously successful release, does it hold up? We discuss its basis in the real history of L.A. and its sense of place, whether the screenplay deserves its plaudits, how it functions as a noir and more.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 253 – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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Horror tropes pervade I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Charlie Kaufman’s oddball drama about a girl doubting her relationship, but it can’t be considered a traditional horror. Instead, it turns these tropes inwards, likening a controlling, toxic relationship to an isolated, threatening, haunted house. It’s a fascinating and brilliant idea, but despite the film being well-observed and intriguing, it’s not engaging enough, and offers little opportunity for confident interpretation. Mike has little sympathy for its developing surreality; José wants more humour. Still, it’s an ambitious, interesting film, and worth delving into.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 23: C’es toi mon amour/ Inta Habibi

Richard Layne returns to discuss Youssef Chahine’s fascinating musical in the light of Tara Shehata’s great podcast on the film last week. We discuss the film’s achievements as a musical, the catchiness of the music, the appeal of Hind Rustum and Shadia, the woodenness of Farid El-Atrash, and  the influence of the screwball, particularly Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story (1942). The podcast can be listened to below:

 

In the podcast, Richard discusses how C’es toi mon amour is the film that immediately precedes Cairo Station and Jamila the Algerian, and how it is worth comparing the two musical numbers set on a train in Cairo Station and in C’es toi mon amour in the light of themes of modernity, tradition, progress and personal freedom. You can see the clips below:

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 22: Tara Shehata on C’est toi mon amour and Silence, on tourne!

The Youssef Chahine Podcast talks to Cairo filmmaker Tara Shehata about two Youssef Chahine musicals, C’es toi mon amour/ ENTA HABIBI (1957) and Silence, on tourne!/Skoot hansawwar (2001).

The podcast can be listened to here:

Hind Rostom and Farid al-Atrash in C’est toi mon amour:

Farid Al-Atrash and Shadia Yassmin:

Opening number of Silence, on tourne!:

Cinematographer Pierre Dupouey on filming with Chahine:

 

In response to a comment on the podcast, Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad, who featured in our of our recent podcasts, notes that: ‘That also happened in “An Egyptian Story” the AD on set in the first scene is Youssry Nassrallah. Who also became a director and Chahine produced his first films which are on Netflix as well. He had a number of ADs who later on became great directors. like Dawood Abdelsayed, Redwan Elkashif, Khaled Youssef and many more’.

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast Off-piste: In the Last Days of the City

A discussion of Tamer El Said’s In the Last Days of the City, currently screening as part of the program for Safar 2020, hosted by the Arab British Centre. The program of films can now be seen from home until the 20th of September and you can follow the link here: www.safarfilmfestival.co.uk/

In the podcast we discuss the film’s combination of documentary and fiction, It’s self-reflexiveness and it’s formal beauty. The film dramatises a dilemma of  a film within a film that the filmmaker can’t make cohere whilst avoiding that very same dilemma for itself by bringing in structural elements (the four friends, the increasing force of theocracy, the national football team’s wins, the search for an apartment, the loss of a relationship, the consolations of poetry in world characterised by alienation.

Jeff Reichert has written a lovely appreciation of the film in Film Comment which can be accessed here: 

The podcast can be listened to below:

There’s an interesting article that brings in Chahine into a discussion of the film here:

…and this other interesting article on cinema in Cairo that also mentions Tamer El Said and Chahine:

The following is a series of images discussed in the podcast:

 

These are just frame grabs from the film captured because they’re either so beautiful or o expressive or both.

The wonderful discussion that followed the screening can be viewed here below. I found Tamer El Said’s commentary very articulate and surprisingly moving:

 

 

José Arroyo

 

The Youssef Chahine Podcast: No. 21 – Devil of the Sahara/ The Desert’s Devil/ Devil of the Desert

A discussion of the Youssef Chahine’s Devil of the Sahara aka The Desert’s Devil aka Devil of the Desert, 1954. We discuss the influence of Zorro and Robin Hood on the film, how Sharif is deployed as a combination of Errol Flynn AND Tyrone Power. We praise the film’s production values; how it’s a piece of entertainment filmed with a verve and flair that comes across even in the very bad copy we had access to. The film has exciting action sequences that make one re-think action in his later films and very successful large-scale musical numbers — the influence of Minnelli is evident throughout — that likewise raises questions about the deliberateness of later choices. A glossy piece of entertainment we both loved even though we saw it in the worst circumstances possible.

The podcast can be listened to below:

Richard mentions an excellent print was screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival last year. This is the festival’s entry below:

 

The version we saw was an atrocious copy from facebook that we are nonetheless thankful for and which can be accessed here:

 

If you want to follow up on the discussion of Sharif’s international career here is the trailer for Oh, Heavenly Dog:

…and here is the one for Monsieur Ibrahim:

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 20: Women Without Men/ Nissae bila regal (1953)

 

A discussion of Nissae Bila Regal, Women Without Men, sometimes also known as Only Women, a Youssef Chahine film from 1953 with superb production values, musical numbers à la MGM and a plot that recalls Federico Garcîa Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. We discuss many of the film’s themes that recur throughout Chahine’s later oeuvre: the influence of Hollywood cinema, melodrama, an exploration of modernisation, gender roles, a discussion of an idea of nation…..and much more.

We mention but did not discuss a lesbian reading of the film because we had not yet read Samar Habib’s excellent discussion of it in A Woman’s Closet is Her Castle: Lesbian Subtext and Corrective Pretext in Women Without Men’, where she also makes the claim that this film ‘gives us our first same-sex subtext in Egyptian cinematic history’. We simply didn’t get it but Habib’s article made us see.

Clips discussed:

First musical number:

 

Second Musical Number:

Rhythm, Tone, Music:

Third Musical Number:

 

https://www.samarhabib.net/single-post/2016/08/03/A-Woman%E2%80%99s-Closet-Is-Her-Castle-Lesbian-Subtext-and-Corrective-Pretext-in-Women-Without-Men?fbclid=IwAR0MrNMp5tuIeOF-KY1kbTJS7wWr3qqkRCPdwY1ZBvTLAbOGWpyKV43tD6g

 

Note the Marie Queeny Présente :

Chahine himself appears in the film, very young, on the left.

And here, looking down with the light shirt on the right:

 

Richard with his admirable research skills has found access to another terrific source on Arab Cinema: The Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern  Cinema ed. by Terri Ginsburg and Chris Lippard (2010). It´s very expensive to buy but full text can be read at archive org. by following the link on the title. : Terri Ginsberg, Chris Lippard Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts

José Arroyo