TBTo the Screen

"Cairo Station" (1958):

Subtitles are played in this film as it is in Arabic yet it is the acting that moves the action of this story. Qinawi (Farid Shawqi) is a down and out young man who was found on the street and hired by a newspaper vendor. There are connected stories that take place in a Cairo train station hence the title. Hannuma (Hind Rostum) is a vivacious street vendor who is set to marry Abu-Seih, the shady as-a-audience-we-don’t-know-exactly-what-he-does-for-a-living man. EVERYONE who was in the film had their hustle selling drinks, sweets, newspapers, etc.

Pinup girls drove Qinawi into insanity and the insanity consumed him. He desperately wanted to be with Hanouma and even in the exhausting heat, she was not in any mirage to give him a chance. It was breathless watching the scenes of Qinawi’s paranoia, go back and forth in a state of shock and sadness. Clothes are a statement distinguishing the rich and the poor. Open blouses and wide skirts were worn by wealthy women. Strips of fabric were worn by poor women. The director, Youssef Chahine, was born in Alexandria, Egypt and attended the Pasadena Playhouse. As a filmmaker, he wanted to first make films for his hometown, for Egypt, for him and then his family. Youssef achieved filmmaking with this stunning black and white portrait with parallels to life that are universally scary yet beautiful.