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also known as Bab el hadid | The Iron Gate

Cairo Station1958

  • 4.0
As shocking now as it was on its original 1958 release, CAIRO STATION is the great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's masterpiece, a street-level exposé of sexual obsession and working-class madness that is as grimy and claustrophobic as its Cairo railway-station setting. From its noirish opening scene, in which a scruffy newspaper hawker discovers a rag-strewn living quarters filled with cutout girlie pictures and intones, "I knew then that something was desperately wrong," it's clear that the film has departed from the upper-class realms of typical 1950s Arab cinema. Chahine moves his camera as dartingly as a pickpocket through a nightmarish world where, as luggage porters strive to unionize and all sections of society swarm along the tracks, the crippled street vendor Qinawi (played by the director) feverishly desires a brash, beautiful and utterly uninterested lemonade seller with dangerous results. Combining Italian neorealism, Egyptian romanticism and overheated film noir, CAIRO STATION was unlike anything anyone had seen in Arab cinema. - Jason Sanders

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1 member likes this review

The best Egyptian film I have ever seen. If you know a better one, the comments box is below!

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (9)

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top reviewer

Mixed feelings about this one. It's an extremely well-made film and I stuck with it to the end, but I didn't find Qinawi's plight all that tragic; despite the director's efforts to make Qinawi sympathetic, it's the same old same old sob story about the poor down-on-his-luck nice guy who can't get any and look what society, especially nasty sexy Hanouma, made him do. (Yes, the film is nearly 60 years old, and so with that in mind one can cut it some slack. It's amazing how little has changed, though.)

Even though the central story was offputting for me, I think what redeemed it is that the other characters, male and female, seem to be just about as stuck as he is due to social conditions and so Qinawi's story is in some way their story as well.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

The best Egyptian film I have ever seen. If you know a better one, the comments box is below!

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

This is a tour de force . . . a crazy cripple man longing for love with no hope of getting it is part of the daily life of people eking out a living at the station. The story, the actors, the cinematography all blend to make a story of great humanity.

1 member likes this review

This film is uncomfortable and disorienting in ways that seem to mostly reflect what was intended by the director, although an extra degree seems to have been added due to changing cultural norms over time. Definitely worth watching, but not a light-hearted film.

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This is an absolute masterpiece. I'd never seen a Chahine film before, but he plumbs depths of neo-realistic despair that I suspect even Vittorio de Sica would have shied away from. The film ably demonstrates how the despair of a marginalized person can become transformed into a psychotic rage, dooming both the lunatic and anyone with the misfortune to cross his path. In its treatment of a handicapped person gone mad, I was reminded of Go Shibata's equally visceral "Late Bloomer." Not to mention the more obvious "Taxi Driver" comparisons (in terms of a marginalized person "snapping," that is, not in terms of depicting a person with a handicap), but of course, Chahine's film predates Scorcese's by seventeen years. I appreciate sites like Fandor for making this film available to the American public, and I hope they will add more Chahine films in the near future.

1 member likes this review
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A tightly constructed psychological boiler. Cairo Station will start its work on you immediately and hold firmly on to your attention through to the end. Pioneering performances and an overwhelming sense of empathy, not so much for the main character as for the struggles of the community this film represents, make this a cinematic masterpiece you would be fool to miss.

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top reviewer

A bit melodramatic at the end where Chahine lost control of his material, the movie remans a good snapshot of realism in an Egyptian movie industry that was bollywoodian in its silliness..Hind Rustam's sexuality is striking, especially compared to today's Islamist atmosphere ( it will be interesting to see how the Egyptian movie industry reacts to the takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood of state institutions.)

Interesting also to see the restraint that Farid Shawky (who was married to Rustam at the time) demonstrates when he gets a serious director like Chahine.

One more note: the pseudo-rock and roll played in the train compartment by "modern" bourgeoisie highlighted the jarring contrast with the rest of the characters (and music) in this story of a society going through drastic change at the apogee of Nasserism.

wonderful

interesting plot and set of characters!