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:
A discussion of Youssef Chahine’s An Egyptian Story, the second part of his Alexandria Trilogy, and one which is self-reflexive on his career thus far, highlighting Son of the Nile (1951) Cairo Station(1958), Jamila, The Algerian(1958), Saladin The Victorious (1963), Un jour le nil/ People and the Nile (1964/1968), The Sparrow (1973) and other of his films. We trace recurring patterns: the type of mise-en-scène, the use of Shakespeare, the references to American musicals, the deployment of a repertory company of actors, a homosexual element, a social critique matched by an auto-critique — it’s a film in which Chahine puts himself on trial — and a more inventive, imaginative and personal dramatisation that interestingly deploys expressionist and surrealist devices. The podcast can be listened to below.
I enclose clips of some of the scenes discussed in the podcast: Below the marvellous scene with the mother which illustrates how Chahine critiques patriarchal power whilst also demonstrating how women collaborate in a cycle of rape, which they not only experience themselves but commit their daughters to, and which the film critiques on one level and extends sympathy to on another. Brilliant and complex.
Glamorous newsreel footage in combination with a dramatisation of Chahine’s first tie at Cannes to show Son of the Nile
A dramatisation of how Chahine sold his producer on the idea of Cairo Station:
The filming of Cairo Station, interesting to see in relation to the same scene in the film itself:
Showing Jamila, The Algerian at the Moscow Film Festival, meeting Henri Langlois of the Cinémathèque Française, being fêted with Magda, and already alluding to the USSR/Egyptian collaboration that would become Un jour le nil
The editing of Saladin interrupted by the death of Chahine’s father.
A moment of auto-critique in An Egyptian Story
The second time Chahine shows Nasser’s resignation in his films, this tie interspersed with footage from The Sparrow:
An example of some expressionist devices and a Surrealist attitude that we see in An Egyptian Story.
Finally a gif:
and a trailer:
and some interesting images:
Those of you interested in pursuing this further might want to look at this very interesting piece by Jaylan Salah,
An extraordinary political melodrama about liberation struggles in colonial settings, produced by its female star and released at the same time as Mehboob Kahn’s Mother India, with which it would ideally be programmed. It would also make a fantastic double bill with Gillo Pontecorvo The Battle of Algiers (1966), which also features the character of Jamila. When we began this podcast I was a bit anxious that we weren’t knowledgeable enough on Chahine’s oeuvre to say anything worth listening to. But as I’ve began reading the literature on Chahine, I realise that what we know and can bring to the table is a knowledge of film history and film aesthetics. None of the books on Chahine I’ve read, for example, mention the influence of Gone With the Wind on this film — extraordinarily interesting in the light of current discussions of the film — and we are beginning to dig out patterning: the melodramatic mode, the politics that underpin, the extraordinary long takes often shot in and for depth, the filming from the inside out, the mobile camera, the ease with which affect is generated, the cinephilia through which one sees and where one detects the influence of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc (1928), Sirk’s mise-en-scène, American post-war musicals; the homoeroticism more evident in some film than others but always a running thread; the filming of individuals with crowds, which are often depicted as community but also shown to turn against the individual. This is a film based on a true story and filmed in the heat of the moment where the fate of the heroine was not yet settled. It’s an extraordinary film that once more raises questions regarding the relations between political cinema and film form. We highly recommend it.
The podcast can be listened to below:
The film can be seen below
Some of you may find useful the 2019 Ritrovato Catalogue on Jamila, The Algerian, with its plot summary and credit listings:
and I made a fun gif to publicise this podcast:
Peter Hourigan, who alerted so many of us to the existence of Chahine fims on Netflix through the Ritrovato Page, has done a a lovely appreciation of the film (and of this very podcast) in Film Alert 101here:
Dan Montedona for Illicit Film Club makes a very interesting point about how, ‘Jamila‘s historical importance often overshadows how good this film is at being rollicking entertainment’. The piece can be accessed here: