Tag Archives: The Sparrow

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 37: Beirut, Oh Beirut (Maroun Bagdadi, Lebanon, 1975)

We continue our little exploration of Middle-Eastern Films that connect to the work of Chahine. This discussion is on Maroun Bagdadi’s Beirut, oh Beirut, currently playing on Netflix. We discuss the beauty of the film. Richard connects it to late sixties Godard in style. I found it more moving and sad than what I remember of that period of Godard’s work. We discuss the film in relation to Chahine’s The Sparrow and to Al-Karnak. The film has a particular nostalgic feel, the depiction of buildings, landscapes, places and spaces for feeling that are soon to be destroyed, perhaps forever, and the way of live and set of dilemmas that this film documents just before they explode and are obliterated, so this poetic drama can also be read as a historical document, now imbued with sadness for what humans do to places once much loved.

The podcast can be listened to here:

The shot mentioned in the podcast that José was particularly impressed with was turned into a little ad for the podcast and can be seen here:

José also did a composite of all the nostalgia-evoking landscape shots of the city, and that can be seen here:

 

The exhibition at the Tate José refers to is Marwan Rechmaoui’s Beirut Caoutchou. Listeners.  Listeners might also be interested in  The Tate Papers ‘On the Politics of Art and Space in Beirut. 

Listeners might also be interested in seeing this video Richard mentions in the podcast, which references the film through its title, “Beirut Oh Beirut”.  It looks like the person filming livestreamed himself travelling around the damaged area of Beirut after the most recent explosion

In the podcast, Richard mentions how Netflix has dumped big collections of world cinema with no fanfare and no context, which on the one hand is great because its available to a wide audience, but on the other hand isn’t because nobody knows it’s there.

This shows the Lebanese films currently on Netflix (or at least, the ones where the production country is set correctly). (You can only find this stuff easily using an external site!)
There are three other Baghdadi films –
It’s worth pointing out that that’s the UK link, there is a version of flixable for other countries (fr.flixable.com etc) and the availability may differ by region.

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast: No. 36 – Al-Karnak (Ali Badr Kahn, Egypt, 1975)

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.

 

 

José Arroyo

 

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 Pocast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne, No. 12: An Egyptian Story (Youssef Chahine, 1982)

Egyptian Story with Text

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:

the-egyptian

….

and a trailer:

 

and some interesting images:

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Those of you interested in pursuing this further might want to look at this very interesting piece by Jaylan Salah,

The Male Gaze in Arab Cinema: Youssef Chahine between Voyeuristic Pleasure and Male Exhibitionism

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 8: The Sparrow/ Le moineau/ Al-Asfour, (Youssef Chahine, Egypt, 1972)

Al-asfour-AKA-The-Sparrow-1972

A dense and rich political film with extraordinary mise-en-scène that begins with an open letter to the Egyptian people and ends with Nasser informing Egypt of the loss of the Six Day War with Israel and announcing his resignation as the people take to the streets. The Sparrow is perhaps the least pleasurable of his films to watch but very rewarding indeed. The more we talked about it and the more we read, the richer the film becomes. The podcast can be listened to below:

 

I made an ad announcing the podcast earlier in the week. I want to keep it here for the obvious homoeroticism it displays:

 

AD-FOR-MOINEAU

but one which rhymes on another level this clip below:

 

In the podcast we discuss this extraordinary scene with the women guerillas and the extraordinary editing that ends the sequence:

We also discuss at length the boy’s attempts to get to the holy shrine, the picaresque hero always cheated, lied to; weak, powerless, and yet determined to go on to his destination. He symbolises the little sparrow in the film, Egypt’s youth, and the future

We discuss the use of zooms in the film, and as you can see below, the edit on the rythm of the zoom itself, whilst also exemplifying Chahine’s way of often placing a figure in a crowd.

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One detects a more Sirkian turn in the mise-en-scène, frames within frames, the screen broken up into different partitions compositionally but also bringing in different degrees of depth into play, all of this within the conveyance and critique of a nostalgia for English Colonialism.

We discuss this dream sequence that echoes an earlier critique of the male gaze as a violation.

 

An finally, the extraordinary last sequence with Nasser handing resigning over the loss of the Six Day War.

Nasser’s resignation rhymes with the Open Letter from Youssef Chahine to his audience that reads as follows:

On the streets of Cairo, Algiers, Tunis, and Baghdad and all Arab capitals young people stope me and ask, “tell us, Youssef, what really happened in June 1967? How did we end up with such a defeat, and why? We thought that we were ready to fight.” All these sincere and courageous people, these sparrows that I love, did not hesitate to flock into the streets in June 1967 to express their readiness to take on the new challenge….To all these people, today we try, through The Sparrow, to illuminate a few of the national and international elements why they, without their knowledge, became victims to”.

 

People may also want to take a closer look at this image capture for a closer look at mise-en-scène (the use of space, mirrors, the filming from inside, and many other stylistic characteristics we’ve been discussing in the podcasts to now) but also for the way they illuminate thematic issues:

 

Aside from the books mentioned in the podcast, readers may also find the following interesting, courtesy of Richard Layne:

https://madamasr.com/en/2014/08/30/feature/culture/egypts-cinematic-gems-the-sparrow/

This one is also good. It was available on Filmstruck
Barbican listing from a screening in 2017

 

 

José Arroyo