The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 15: Adieu Bonaparte (1985)

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Patrice Chereau is Napoleon, out to conquer Egypt. Michel Piccoli is Cafarelli, one of Napoleon’s generals and a man of science. Cafarelli falls in love with Ali (Mohsen Mohieddin) AND his brother, Egyptian patriots who learn to love him but — Ali at least — not that way. It’s an anti-colonial, very queer film, not afraid of placing poetry in the midst of impressive spectacle. The first of Chahine’s France-Egyptian co-productions involving Humbert Balsan. It got bad reviews from both the French and the Egyptian press upon first release and has since become a classic, the only one of Chahine’s films we’ve been able to find released on blu-ray (and as a ‘Heritage’ film in France). The podcast touches on all of these subjects and, when scenes are discussed, clips are provided:

 

The version shown on Kuwaiti television with English sub-titles discussed by Richard at the beginning of the podcast:

 

and what follows are clips from scenes discussed in the podcast:

a: the beauty of the film itself and the uses of Egyptian landmarks.

 

b) the wonderful scene with Patrice Chereau as Napoleon dancing

 

c) the uses of poetry. A film that is not afraid to deploy it narratively nor nor create it visually.

d: Anti-colonial struggles

A lesson in love: power dynamics, desire, sex, affection. Chahine dramatises it with many colours and in various dimensions.

José Arroyo

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