Tag Archives: Sirk

The Youssef Chahine Podcast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne, No. 11: Alexandria Why? / Iskandariyya …leh?, 1979

alexandria for real picture intro 2

 

A discussion of Chahine’s autobiographical film, the first of what would be called the Alexandria TrilogyAlexandria, Why?/ Iskandariyya….leh? (1979), An Egyptian Story/ Haddouta Misriyya, 1982), Alexandria, Again and Forever/ Iskandariyya, kaman wa kaman, 1989 — and would then expand to include a fourth film, Alexandria….New York, 2004.

I made a trailer for the film and the podcast that should give you a flavour of what it’s about if you haven’t already seen it:

Our special guest star is Dr. Andrew Moor from Manchester Metropolitan University who specialises in, amongst other things, LGBTQ cinema and whose enthusiasm for Chahine films at last year’s Ritrovato festival in Bologna is what introduced many of us to these great works.

dyer
with thanks to Adrian Garvey for the image from Richard Dyer’s lecture above

Richard Dyer would use Alexandria, Why? to illustrate a lecture on ‘A History of Gay Cinema in Ten Films, and it could just as profitably be deployed in relation to Queer cinema. The podcast discusses the very interesting ways the film depicts all kinds of intersectionality in a bildungsroman about a young man who wants a career in the arts just as British Occupying Forces are forced to contend with the Germans arriving in El Alemein. We discuss the way the film mixes genres (the musical, the melodrama, the social problem film). It’s a rare director that elicits commentary in relation to a mix including Ken Loach, Shakespeare, Vincente Minnelli and Shakespeare. The film is also an important contribution to a discussion of colonialism from the perspective of the colonised.

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There´s a very interesting review of the film by Jesse Cataldo here:

Richard Layne was thrilled to discover 70s British heart-throb Gerry Sundquist as one of the stars of the film and quickly dug up one of his works, as you can see above. Richard also provided more information for those who want to follow up on that aspect here below:

Review of “Soldier and Me” (his first lead role) which features the best summary I’ve seen of his career and what went wrong
This is by his co-star in “Soldier and Me”. I had the book with Gerry on the cover when I was a kid 🙂
Clip from “Soldier and Me” – Gerry is the guy who rescues the kid from the bullies
The film he made after “Alexandria .. Why?” – British “Saturday Night Fever” rip-off “The Music Machine”

Clip from “The Bill” from 1992, first acting work in 8 years following his drug problems, he died the following year. Gerry is the dodgy guy with the ponytail

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGtoimaJFy0

Very sad story!’

 

 

Here are some clips referenced in the podcast that you might find interesting:

 

a tiny excerpt that is from a film that Chahine himself made as a student:

 

The very moving search fro the British Soldier:

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….and the witty conclusion with the arrival in New York:

 

…and here is the glorious opening scene , which introduces all of the film’s main themes: Hitler promising to get to Alexandria cut to Esther Williams in Bathing Beauty, unruly occupying forces and anti-colonial struggles, the reality of occupation next to the fantasy of Georges Guétary singing ‘I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise’ in Minnelli’s An American in Paris, anachronistically deployed here as the film starts in 1942 and the film would not be released until 1951; a young lad and his mates living their youth in a beautiful port city under difficult circumstances, a city made up of diverse peoples, represented inclusively and dramatised with feeling and depth. It’s a beautiful film.

 

Here is a more extended version of the film Chahine made at school:

 

There is a very interesting article here, perhaps romanticising, on how Chahine was able to finish his stint in America as a student due to a government error:

 

The podcast barely scratches its surface but will we hope enhance viewer’s appreciation and interestingly links it with is oeuvre to this point.

José Arroyo

‘Ten Films in Ten Days’: Day Five – Maria Candelaria

DOLORESDELRIO

Day Five: Maria Candelaria (Emilio Fernández, Mexico, 1944)

I have a particular love for melodramas that actually make you cry, and sometimes also gasp at the impossible beauty and sadness of it all, in whatever style: Sirk (Imitation of Life), Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love), King Vidor (Stella Dallas), Lean (Brief Encounter), Maria Luisa Bemberg (Camila). Today I’m in the mood for those directed by Emilio Fernández.. His films often focused on the marginalised in society, fishermen, peasant farmers, prostitutes, gangsters, usually cast from the great beauties of the day (Maria Felix, Dolores Del Rio, Pedro Armendariz) . The setting was usually rural, (Flor Silvestre, La Perla, Maria Candelaria) sometimes historical and revolutionary (Río Escondido, Salon Mexico, Enamorada, Las abandonadas) . The great Gabriel Figueroa filmed Mexico, it’s landscapes and its people with great skill and feeling so as to show beauty, complexity, depth, so that it ennobled those people and that place. The endings were often tragic. Dolores Tierney has already chosen Enamorada so today I chose Maria Candelaria. Particularly because of that moment where Dolores Del Rio as Maria Candelaria goes to sell her flowers, the flowers she needs to make a living, to feed her pig, and thus to marry. And the whole village, who’s been whispering that she’s the daughter of a prostitute, turns out in their canoes to stop her from doing so, thus denying her honest work and almost certainly condemning her to her mother’s life. It’s an unsentimental moment –peasants can be nasty, violent, cruel; communities can destroy and cast out – but a beautiful one in terms of the way its filmed and also the sadness, unfairness, and determination that it expresses.

Martin Scorsese’s appreciation of the director and one of his other great films, Enamorada, can be seen here

José Arroyo