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Al-asfour (The Sparrow)

Posted by martinteller on February 9, 2013

This is quite a rarity for me these days: failing to complete a movie.  Especially one from a director who did one of my top 100 films (Cairo Station).  I made it more than halfway through, but I just wasn’t getting anything from it.  Chahine dumps a ton of characters in your lap and a complex narrative involving a police officer, a general, and a sheikh all hunting down some kind of thief or warlord or something.  There’s something about a woman named Bahiya and another named Zebeida, and a little kid trying to get to Cairo.  Some of these people may or may not be related… it’s unclear whether “brother”, “father” and “uncle” are just terms of affection.  Information is doled out in extremely brief and unexpected flashbacks.  This narrative style is unusual, but that doesn’t make it good.  If the idea is to communicate the chaos of the Egyptian situation (set just before the outbreak of the Six Days War, according to other sources), then mission accomplished, I suppose.  I was too confused to find anything to cling to… by the time I had a grasp on the plot, I had given up trying to care.  I could have plowed through the remaining 45 minutes, but little else about the film convinced me it would be worthwhile.  The performances and technical aspects were fine, but not especially noteworthy.

This film will probably mean a lot more to someone knowledgeable about Egyptian political history.  Maybe even myself if I were to revisit it with fresh eyes.  For now, I’ll take the incomplete… and probably stick more to Chahine’s earlier works.  Rating: none


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