Tag Archives: The Blazing Sun

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 3: Cairo Station/ Bab al-Hadid (The Iron Gate) (1958)

Our third podcast on Youssef Chahine films, this one on Cairo Station, a combination of Dickensian melodrama, Marxist analysis, neorealist aspirations, film noir techniques, and with a contemporary relevance in its Incel-on-a-rampage theme. A brilliant work, probably the best we’ve seen so far (though those with a penchant for romance might prefer The Blazing Sun or Dark Waters).  The podcast can be listened to here:

 

In the past few podcasts we´ve been noting how wrong wikipedia is in its description of the films so far, and how it is evident from so many of the reviews that many reviewers haven´t seen the films well enough to describe them accurately.Richard even refers us to the BFI.An exception to this pattern is this brief description of the film in the Ritrovato catalogue.

 

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Description of Cairo Station from Bologna’s Ritrovato Catalogue

 

These are excerpts from the film that are described or referred to in the podcast: we. talk about the sensuality in the film and how shocking that must have been in its time

We talk about the conflict between modernity and tradition in relation to this excerpt featuring Mike and His Skyrockets, who have their own website but who interestingly don´t mention their appearance in this film. There is even an update from Mike himself.And it turns out that one of the Skyrockets, Asaad Kelada became a director in Hollywood with extensive creditsin television.

We talk about the film noir elements in a film that has often been described as neorealist and of the extraordinary conceptualisation of shots and use of depth of field, which can be seen in this excerpt-

Likewise the images below are illustrations of some of the aspects discussed in the podcast, the compositions, the themes of sexual obsession, labour organising, the compositions, the way the frame is peopled, etc.:

Lastly, a description of Chahine and his career from the Ritrovato catalogue:

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Introduction to Chahine and his work from the 2019 Ritrovato Catalogue

and lastly Mark Cousins also makes for very interesting reading on Cairo Station in his The Story of Film book

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne No. 2: Dark Waters aka Struggle in the Pier/ Sira` fi el-Minaa (Youssef Chahine, Egypt, 1956)

dark water

 

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A discussion of Youssef Chahine’s Dark Waters, currently on Netflix. José and Richard discuss how the film introduces the viewer to another culture which might seem sexist and authoritarian to modern sensibilities and that in spite of that is moving, compelling and beautiful.

The podcast ranges over the sensuality depicted, the detection of elements of Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet in some scenes, how the frame is alive with community and yet how one detects a patterning in the depiction of that community that connotes a queer culture in that that community which provides comfort and support can also turn on the individual, turn into a mob, and rampage onto murder.

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Omar’s Hamlet

There’s a dramatisation of class in the film with lots of parallelisms between aunt and niece and also what turns out, in typical melodramatic form, two brothers raised on opposite sides of a considerable class divide. One begins to detect patternings in Chahine’s films, the extraordinary compositions, the visual poetry, the excitement of the narrative, the visual beauty of the production, a Hollywood-style story telling with a grand romantic finale that takes advantage of the teaming of Sharif and Faten Hamama, glamorous stars that were then a real life couple. There are long takes that often involve difficult orchestrations of movements of large numbers of people. This and The Blazing Sun are also melodramas where, like in noir, it is the man who’s wounded and suffers for love, often due to his own misapprehensions. In spite of certain macho attitudes now alien to us, the film remains engaging, exciting and revealing.

You can see some of the points made above illustrated in the images below:

 

The podcast may be listened to below:

 

Those of you who speak French may want to listen to this charming interview between these ‘two legends of Arab cinema’ where Sharif talks about how he had two strokes of incredible luck in his career, one to be discovered by Chahine whilst he was drinking tea and launched into a career as a film star with The Blazing Sun, and then to be cast by David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia, ‘we were young and beauiful then, now we look like an image of the apocalypse,’ says Sharif.  ‘I saw first saw him in the Cinema,’ says Chaine and didn’t take me long to cruise him. How could someone be so beautiful. Then, as he said, I saw him again in a tearoom, Chahine tells a funny story about how they went to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia together, Sharif shaking because he didn’t know how he was going to be received and then it went well and Chahine was left at the premiere in London dressed in a tux and without a cent. They joke that after that they didn’t see each other for forty years. They went to the same school where they were taught to be ‘gentlemen’ and the interviewer talks of how Shariff represents the greatness, splendor and charm of the Arab world in the West.’ For his part the charmingly self-deprecating Sharif talks about all the mistakes he made, and how Chahine deplored his choices. He also talks interestingly that the only women he knew and lived with and truly loved were his mother and the delicious presence that is FAten Hamama.

The entry on Dark Waters from the 2019 Ritrovato catalogue may be seen below:

José Arroyo