Tag Archives: Alexandria Again and Forever

Youssef Chahine’s Career: An Egyptian Perspective Part III

We return for the third part of our conversation with Hussein, offering an Egyptian perspective on Youssef Chahine’s career, its contexts and its significance. In this episode we touch on ‘The Sparrow’, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’, ‘Adieu Bonaparte’ and ‘Alexandria…Again and Forever‘. We discuss how one of  the songs of The Sparrow was released before the film, and has seeped into Egyptian pop culture without people necessarily knowing its source, like the phrases discussed in our last conversation. We also discuss the famous Egyptian Actor’s Union Strike of 1987, the influence of Netflix, how Alexandria….Again and Forever might be under-appreciated…and more.

We will return for a final episode discussing the last stage of Chahine’s brilliant career beginning with ‘Cairo as Seen by Chahine’.

Hussein helped me find an Egyptian equivalent to imdb to name all the actors that appear in Alexandria Again and Forever as themselves in the depiction of the famous strike, and I include the cast list with the actors named and pictured below:

Hussein redresses some of the political aspects of the films that were quite overlooked in our earlier podcast. Most importantly, the strike by the Egyptian Actors’ Union of 1987. There are very scarce resources on this strike but thankfully Chahine did a whole film revolving around it. The Egyptian parliament had passed laws governing unions that would have allowed the term of each head of the union to run forever. One of the remarkable things about the film is how Chahine filmed the fictional strike in the exact locations where it had happened with the people who had participated in the strike, inserting footage of the actual strike, documentary footage from the union’s conference that was organized as part of the strike. The conference issued a declaration that eventually lead to the government backing down and rolling back the changes in the union law.

 

The extraordinary Taheyya Kariokka (above) at the height of her fame on the left, and managing the Actor’s Union on the right.

Chahine on the set of Return of the Prodigal Son

Michel Piccoli, Youssef Chahine, Mohsen Mohieddin and director Patrice Chereau, who played Napoleon for Chahine, at the time of Adieu Bonaparte.

We will continue with our fourth and final episode next week

 

José Arroyo

 

The Youssef Chahine Podcast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne, No. 13: Alexandria Again and Forever (Egypt, 1990)

Alexandria Now and Forever.poster

A discussion of Alexandria Again and Forever, the third film in what was initially called Youssef Chahine’s Alexandria Trilogy — including Alexandria… Why ? (1979) and An Egyptian Story (1982)) and later to expand into a quartet and include Alexandria….New York (2004) — focussing on the uses of Shakespeare, the influence of the American musical on Chahine, John Gielgud’s visit to perform Hamlet in Cairo, queer desire, the peplum film, Alexander, Anthony and Cleopatra, Art and Activism, the 1978 cinema artists’ strike in Egypt. The podcast can be listened to below:

The scenes  we refer to include this onset filming of a Hamlet soliloquy below:

 

the MGM musical à la Egyptian at the Berlin Film Festival below:

…which makes an interesting contrast with the Donald O’Connor solo visible below:

Listeners might find interesting this article by Margaret Litvin on

Hamlet's Arab Journey: Shakespeare's Prince and Nasser's Ghost.

and this excerpt from John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star Book by Jonathan Croall:

gielgud

Lastly, this is the scene from the strike that ends the film and becomes a musical number, bringing once more into play the personal and political, the fictional and the historical…from a fictionalised personal narrative and onto history:

 

Here is the article on Chahine, affectionately called The Professor, that made Richard aware that his nickname was Joe and that we had recorded this not so favourable discussion, a first, on the anniversary of his death.

 

…and finally, onHamlet’s hats.

 

José Arroyo