Tag Archives: Mohsen Mohieddin

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 No. 32: Youssef Chahine’s Cinema — An Egyptian Perspective, Part II

 

 


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.

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 31: An Egyptian Perspective of A New Day

This podcast has been very lucky with its listeners. Hussein, not only provided us with a possibility of viewing the wonderful Dawn of a New Day, but produced the sub-titles necessary to understand it. We can’t thank him enough. I took the opportunity of talking to Hussein to ask him about things we as English-speaking viewers might not have understood. i.e an Egyptian perspective on the politics, the history, the significance of streets and buildings, the customs, the reputation of the actors in the film(Saifuddin Shawkat, Sanaa Gameel) and in Chahin’s other work (Mohsen Mohieddin) . All proved illuminating and enlightening and has certainly helped me understand Dawn of a New Day better. The conversation then continues onto Chahine as a figure in Egyptian cinema and culture and it was so interesting and informative that we will continue with that strand of conversation onto the next podcast.

 

Hussein has also kindly provided us with a link to two interesting stories:

Click on “the cairo tower” and “if lions could speak”. The first is the tower’s story, the other on the two lions on each side of the bridge that tarek crosses to meet Nayla. Hussein tells us, ‘They are of extreme importance in our history and almost became synonymous with downtown Cairo’.
José Arroyo

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

ADIEU_BONAPARTE 1.00_00_21_21.Still001

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.

Some of you may be interested in this ‘on location’ piece by the great Serge Daney:http://sergedaney.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-small-sentence.html

 

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne – No. 10: Return of the Prodigal Son/ Awdet el Ebn el Dal, 1976

A teen musical à la Tennesse Williams with Shakespearean overtones and a blood wedding that would put both García Lorca and Game of Thrones to shame. Richard Layne and I discuss all of this in the context of both Chahine’s career, it was his first film after the Trilogy of Defeat (The Land, The Choice, The Sparrow) –and the political context of the time, with the Civil War in Lebanon, one that was to last fifteen years, starting in 1975, the year before this Algerian-Lebanese-Egyptian co-production was produced.

 

 

 

 

The film is structured around the Old Testament Story, with a Cain and Abel structuring device also accompanied by a Romeo and Juliet story, in this case, and in keeping with the film’s Marxist analysis, a love made impossible by a class divide. It also borrows from the André Gide short story of the same name which explores the impossibility of having one law that fits all.

The film is a very hybrid generically, but it IS a musical. In The Arab National Project in Yousssef Chahine’s Cinema, Malek Khouri writes,

 

The first musical number takes place at school where the two young dreamers Rafida and Ibrahim express their friendship and love for each other. The second song accompanies Ali’s release from prison and introduces us to his character through flashbacks of his lost time in prison and his consequent disillusionment with his political dreams and hopes. The third follows the fight between Ibrahim and his father Tulba, as Ibrahim and his father Tulb, Ibrahim and Tafida join other youths in proclaiming ‘The streets are ours,’ reflecting the solidarity and determination of youth in the fight for social change and freedom. The final song is inItially heard when Ibrahim is bit by a scorpion, and is heard once again as a mantra towards the end of the film as the bloody chaos explodes at the Madbouli household’ (p. 108)

 

 

The music is glorious, as you can see below in the footage of Sadat’s funeral, that leads to a full-blown musical number, with dancing.

The film’s first musical number is this lovely one about the ending of school.

 

This is continued by a song that refers both to Egypt after Nasser but also to the love story between our two young protagonists.

 

A song that. is reprised in the incredible finale for the film, which is as lurid and violent as anything in Titus Andronicus:

 

…and as always, Chahine puts his hopes in youth and the future:

 

 

I made this trailer for the podcast that gives a flavour of the film as a whole:

 

José Arroyo