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.
First musical number:
Second Musical Number:
Rhythm, Tone, Music:
Third Musical Number:
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