[This post is part of the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon, hosted by The Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. The blogathon, running from 14th-21st February aims to to raise funds for the Film Noir Foundation who do important work to restore and preserve the noir heritage. The donations will be used to restore The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me), directed by Cy Endfield. Please donate here.]
Cairo Station* by Youssef Chahine from 1958 is one of the first Arab films to adapt techniques of Italian neo-realism and American film noir. A suspense thriller set in a Cairo train station; it’s a departure from the sweet natured films of the 1950s. The film addresses the themes of sexual repression, revenge, murder.
Cairo Station follows three main characters, Abu Serib (Farid Shawqi), a hard working porter trying to form a union to fight corruption and bring equal rights to his fellow workers; his fiancée Hanuma (Hind Rostom), the femme fatale of the film who flirts her way to sell lemonade to train passengers, which takes away from the earnings of the station’s official drink vendor; and Kenawi (played by Chahine himself) a crippled newspaper vendor who is obsessed with Hanuma.
The frantic pace in the station reflects the pace of life in Cairo along with all the characters that walk through the station. You see the workers, the bourgeoisie, the religious and the free spirited. The station tells a story of a city, but it also tells a story through the eyes of the very disturbed Kenawi - who appears harmless but is really the dark soul in this film.
Kenawi's creepy stares at women, his collection of pin-up models in his shed makes you realise he is disturbed, you can see his sexual repression and sense it will lead to something dangerous. The film is set in one day and scene-by-scene, you can feel the tension growing leading to chaos, violence and kidnapping – all with dire consequences.
Watching this movie again after such a long time made me realize that its storyline and characters are timeless and the film is relevant today as it was over 50 years ago. The film was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1958. It was banned for 20 years, but since 1978 it has been recognized as an Egyptian classic and a masterpiece.
A scene from the film
* The Arabic title for this film is باب الحديد (Bab El Hadid), which literally means Iron Gate.
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