I talk to Matthew Hays about Queer Film Classics, a series of books modelled on the BFI series, where a writer gets to discuss a single film at book length, the difference being that these are ‘queer’ as well as ‘classic’. Matt is, along with Thomas Waugh, the co-editor of the series, first for Arsenal Press and currently for McGill-Queen’s University Press. The conversation touches on the concept behind the series — what is queer? What is classic?; the rationale for selection of individual titles, and what he’s learned from the close to two decades he’s been co-editing the series, eventually to comprise approximately 40 titles, and including books on films as diverse as Scorpio Rising and I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Boys in the Sand and Death in Venice,Orlando and Zero Patience …. and many, many others.
The conversation may be listened to as a podcast here:
We continue with our discussion of the MARTIN SCORSESE’S WORLD CINEMA strand on MUBI, this time focusing on Kim Ki-young’s THE HOUSEMAID (South Korea, 1960). MUBI’s take is that it influenced Bong Joon-ho’s PARASITE – clearly evident – and that it ‘changed the course of South Korean cinema forever. An immense success when released in 1960, this striking masterpiece is a blend of sexual obsession and class struggle, horror and social critique’. In the podcast, we agree with most of what MUBI says about it but question the claim that it’s a masterpiece,’ finding the film deeply misogynistic in ways that go even beyond the patriarchal norms of its time and culture. The very handsome version being screened by MUBI is the 2008 restoration by the Korean Film Archive and is a real pleasure to see, making visible the film’s very real inventiveness with light, composition and movement.
A conversation with Dr. Andrew Moor on Derek Jarman, arising from the Derek Jarman Protest! exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, on Jarman’s significance in British Culture, his legacy as a multimedia artist and his contributions to art, protest cultures, queer cultures and tourism.
In the podcast we discuss his films throughout — the exhibition has been accompanied by a full retrospective at HOME in Manchester — and make reference to the following aspects of his art work that the exhibition touches on:
In this podcast Leann Rivera and I discussJacques Demy’s 1970 fairytale classic ‘Peau d’Âne’ / Donkey Skin by delving closely into the genre of the fairytale and its shift from its traditional and subjective roots due to the standardising of Walt Disney. We investigate how the French filmmaker illustrates (through style and narrative) an innovative approach which contemporary live-action fairytales should appreciate to observe. Furthermore highlighting how Demy, and his childhood reverence for these fantastical tales and keen eye to convey visual pleasure for all ages, sexualities and backgrounds, manages to encapsulate both the genre’s beauty and ugliness all in one to appreciate but to also analyse, uncovering its secrets and layers to be learnt from and understood.
Pedro Almodóvar is arguably the most written about Spanish filmmaker since Buñuel. Is there anything more to say of his work? After reading The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’; and I wanted to talk to its author — Ana María Sánchez-Arce — to find out more: What did she seek when starting out on the project and what did she find? What has now come to light about the Movida that was missing from earlier accounts? What are the benefits of analysing the film in chronological order and what do we learn about Spain’s culture and history in doing so? Were Spanish critics really that blind to Almodóvar’s accomplishments and that mean to his person? Did Almodóvar really invest his own money into the production of Law of Desire (1987)? There was so much talk about — we could have gone on for several hours more — that we only really cover the first parts of his career, trailing off after the controversies of Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (1989) and Kika (1993). Those of you who find it interesting can turn to the book for more. The podcast can be listened to below:
A beautiful film, a continuation of a cycle of autobiographical films (The Boys From Fengkuei,A Summer at Grandpa’s). We continue our discussion of framing, ellipses, cinema, letters, the country and the city, heartbreak and exploitation, and all those other formal and thematic elements that make Hou’s cinema so great. James Udden’s wonderful article (see below) has been very useful in the discussion:
— The beginnings of Josés Scholarly Bibliography on Hou which we will add to after every episode:
-Andres, Nigel, ‘A Camera Trained on Eternal Truths, Financial Times, London: 07 June 2005: 13.
-Assayas, Olivier, Modern Time, Film Comment; Jan/Feb 2008; 44, p. 48
-Combs, Geoffrey, ‘ Dust in the Wind/ Lianlian Feng Chen’, Monthly Film Bulletin, April 1, 1990;57, 675, pg.111.
-Diffrient, David Scott ,’The Sandwich Man: History, episodicity and serial conditioning in a Taiwanese omnibus film’, Asian Cinema, vol 25, no., pp. 71-92,
-Cheshire, Godgrey, ‘Time span: The cinema of Hou Hsio-hsien’, Film Comment; Nov 1993;29, 6, pg. 56.
-Ellickson , Lee and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Preparing to Live in the Present; An interview with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Cineaste, Fall 2002, vol 27, no. 4 (Fall 2002), pp. 13-19
-Hastie, Amelie, ‘Watching Carefully: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and His Audience’, Film Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 3 (Spring 2016), pp. 72-78
-Kenigsberg, Ben . ‘Looking for an Introduction to Taiwan’s Greatest Filmmaker? Start Here’. New York Times (Online) , New York: New York Times Company. May 28, 2020.
-Lupke, Christopher (The Sinophone Cinea of Hou Shiao-hsien: Culture, Stuyle, Voice and Motion, amherst: Cambria Press.
-Rayns, Tony, Esprit de corp, Film Comment; Nov. Dec. 2007, 43, 6, p. 14
-Rayns, Tony, ‘Tongnian Wangshi (The Time To Live and The Tine to Die), Monthly Film Bulletin; Jun 1, 1988; 55, 653
-Stanbrook, Alan, The Worlds of Hou Hsiao-hsien’, Sight and Sound, Spring 1990; 59, 2, Rayns, Tony, ‘Auteur in the Making’, Sight and Sound; July 2016;26, 9; p. 98
-Sklar, Robert, ‘Hidden History, Modern Hedeonism; The films of Hou Hsia-hsien’, Cineaste, Fall 2002; 27, 4, pg. 11.
-Udden, James, ‘Taiwanese Popular Cinema and the Strage Apprenticeship of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Spring, 2003, vol. 15, no. Special Issue on Taiwan Film Spring, 2003), pp. 120-145.
-Udden, James, ‘Dust in the Wind: A Definite Hou/ New Cinema Work’, The Cupola, 08-2014 (This book chapter is available at The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/idsfac/21)
-Xia Cai, Chapter 1: Hou Hisao-Hsien Films and Readings, The Ethics of Witness: Dailiness and History in Hou Hsia-hsien’s Films, Springer: Singapore, 2019, pp. 1-3
-Yueh-yu, Yeh. Post Script – Essays in Film and the Humanities; Commerce, Tex, Vol 20, Iss 2-3 (Winter 2000) 61-76.
Y-ip, June, ‘Taiwanese New Cinema’ in The Oxford History of World Cinema, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith ed. New York, United States, Oxford University Press, 1996)
-Wen, Tien-Hsiang (trans by GAN Sheuo Hui), ‘Hou Hsiao-Hsien: a standard for evaluating Taiwan’s cinema), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol 9, number 2, 2008.
Richard returns! We discuss the famous Al-Karnak (Karnak Café) directed byAli Badr Kahn in 1975. A political film, a critique of the previous regime, based on a novella by Naguib Mahfouz, and a ‘model of de-Nasserfication’. The film is pulpy, melodramatic, sensationalist, a box-office smash. A very interesting work to discuss in relation to Chahine’s The Sparrow (1972), which deals with similar subject matter but in a a very different way. Ali Badr Kahn and Mahfouz had previously collaborated with Chahine as well so the film is an interesting focal point to a whole series of issues that intersect with Chahine’s work.
We continue our discussion with Hussein, to garner an Egyptian perspective on the career of Youssef Chahine to 1985. We touch on Son of he Nile/ Nile Boy (1951), The Blazing Sun,/ Struggle in the Valley (1954) ‘The Turn of the Decade’ films (Forever Love/ Forever Yours (1959), In Your Hands (1960), A Lover’s Call (1960), A Man in My Life (1961). We continue with all his major films and discuss how some phrases from them have become common parlance in Egyptian culture. We also touch on the complicated relationship with Mohsen Mohieddin Mohsen Mohieddin and we end with Dalida and The Sixth Day (1986). It’s a conversation still to be continued, and we will cover the last phase of his career in the next podcast.
Hussein also sent some wonderful photos which he describes as follows.
First photo (above) is a film poster from one of his first films, not sure which.
Second (below) is from Forever Love, the first of the four “turn of the decade” films.
Third is a photo I took on my way home from work today of the building where Chahine lived most of his life till death, he lived in one of the three upper floors with the many windows. He actually shot many scenes there, in Egyptian Story (1982), Alexandria Again and Forever (1989), Cairo as seen by Chahine (1991)and Silence on Tourne (2001).
The last one is the plaque at the entrance of the building memorializing him. He used to live in the downtown Nile island of Zamalek, one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Cairo back in the days and still today.
A discussion of Filmfarsi, a film by Ehsan Khoshbakht, on a mode of filmmaking extremely popular in Iran — urban gangster films, melodramas, musicals — set in urban working class milieus, that evoked and challenged the country’s vaunted leap in modernity. IAccording to Ehsan Khoshbakht, the film’s director, ‘Something rare, euphoric and mad was recorded on celluloid: the Iranian way of life after the second world war, with all its paradoxes. Even the sleaziest films became documents. If the majority of key Iranian arthouse films of the 1960s and 1970s were set in villages and rural areas (a tradition continued until after the revolution), filmfarsi was about the thriving cities, which were expanding blindly, thanks to petrodollars’.
t’s very different to the type of cinema Abbas Kiarostami was also doing in this period. It’s a cinema quickly banned after the ’79 revolution, and a cult on VHS. The filmmaker shows the wide range of filmmaking, its transnational perspective, its ritual and fetishistic post -79 consumption, and well evokes why it was so powerful, why it’s been banned and why it is so cherished.
He’s also offered a wonderful introduction in The Guardian, which can be found here.
It begins with: ‘Shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the country’s national newspapers published a joint subpoena, unique in film history. All the key stars of “filmfarsi” – a form of popular cinema that embodied the aspirations and illusions of a modernising society – were summoned to the revolutionary court. The careers of hundreds of actors and directors ended overnight. Unlike the Hollywood blacklisting of the McCarthy era, there was not even the opportunity for a mock hearing. The cinema, seen as emblematic of corruption, “westoxification” and the decadence of the ousted Pahlavi regime, was consigned to oblivion.
Those of you interested in watching the film can follow up bookings here. Many thanks to Wales One World for their superb programme and for the free screenings.
You can see Ehsan Khoshbakht speak to David Gillam on Filmfarsi here:
Richard Layne and I return with a discussion of Dawn of a New Day, one of Chahine’s best. It echoes Sirk once more and has traces of An Affair to Remember and European Art Cinema like Antonioni’s La notte (1961) or Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960) whilst remaining very much a popular melodrama about love which is also a commentary on the state of the nation and its future. A very beautiful film and so accessible it’s a real pity it’s not part of the current Netflix package.
Richard and I discuss the very beautiful cinematography by Abdel Aziz Fahmy, and I’ve provided some image capture below to give you a taste of it:
We also discuss the extent to which Chahine deploys Sirk, his style is a kind of vernacular through which Chahine expresses himself whilst also offering a visual analysis which would not be made in prose criticism until a decade later.
Richard and I also discuss melodrama, and how the abandonment of the child lingers over the last part and offers a critique which would be absent had the focus been solely on the love affair. I include it below though sadly without sub-titles.
Richard has also provided the following links which some of you may want to pursue and which I will add to as i come across them:
A discussion between friends, informed but informal, eager for exchange and hoping to contribute to a discussion, practically unedited. We probably missed many reference points but as soon as we stopped talking I realised the most obvious one is 120 BPM. You can nonetheless follow up discussions on that truly great film here:
An extended discussion of Youssef Chahine’s Alexandria, New York. ‘I love American cinema but America doesn’t love me’. Anyone who loves Chahine’s cinema will find this irresistible. A film made by someone who thinks and knows how to visualise and dramatise. We will see it again. The discussion can be listened to in the player below:
Listeners might also be interesting in the clips below which are discussed in the podcast:
Watching Cairo Station in New York.
2. Watching the Girls Go By (and whose gaze is it?).
A bisexual gaze?
A coming full circle:
New York, New York: An Arab Ending.
Whilst scrambling to collect these clips this morning, Richard and I realised that we were speaking in relation to different prints and his findings might be of interest to some of you. Richard writes:
Very interesting – I’m assuming the 2hr 3 version is an Egyptian edit, and the longer one(2h9m) is the French version. Differences I could find are:
Scene at the dance contest: conversation at the bar is shorter and the presentation of the prize is cut (not clear why this is). Young Yehia walks Ginger home after the dance – their final long kiss is cut.
Scene with the peeping landlady – ends when she appears at Yehia’s door. Entire sequence of him showering in her flat and her joining him is gone. (about 2 minutes cut here)
Later scene where Ginger comes to Yehia’s room and they are interrupted by the landlady – their kiss is cut.
End of this scene where Yehia and Ginger go to bed is also cut.
Sex scene in Yehia’s room when he is planning to leave – opening two minutes of this scene has gone, the shorter cut opens at the end of this sequence with them lying in bed together (so, interestingly, it is still OK to show them in bed) 70s scene with the older Yehia and Ginger in his hotel room – mostly intact but the end of this scene is cut.
A discussion of Silence…on tourne focussing on the many characteristic flourishes we like so much in Chahine’s oeuvre but exploring also why they are less satisfying in this particular work. As we can see from Peter Broadshaw’s review here, the film was well reviewed on its original release but we found it less successfully realised than his other films (and this was also the case upon José’s first viewing and the podcast he did on the film with Egyptian filmmaker Tara Shehata).
We reference the ending in the discussion, particularly that great tracking shot/edit from the filming of the musical number to the rejected gigolo watching the finished version at the cinema, and this can be seen below
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. .
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:
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’.
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:
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.