Thursday, September 5, 2013

194 of 1001 Movies: Cairo Station (1958)

Egyptians seemed to be trying to be the edgiest of the bunch and I think they even took out the French and Germans for edgiest movie done so early. The only thing is the treatment of the women is terrible and I don't ever know that the movie doesn't condone that. Youssef  Chahine doesn't only star in the movie but he also directs, and the story almost seems like it was made to shock, with lots of notes taken from Hitchcock, and being something that seems like a footstep to Psycho. Cairo Station can also be found under the title The Iron Gate.

Summary:  After a newsstand owner finds Quinawi and allows him to sell newspaper for him he discovers that Quinawi is growing more odd with each passing day. He still pities the guy though because he is lame. Quinawi is getting stranger though and he now has set his sight on a woman, Hannuma. Hannuma does flirt and sort of mislead him, but she is open about the fact she is engaged to Abu Siri, who is currently trying to put together a union. Quinawi hatched a plan though that he will either kill Abu Siri and steal her away, or just allow no one to have her if he can't.

Acting: The acting is pretty bad from most the actors. I think the lead as Quinawi, who is also the director, does pretty well, especially in the close up shots only of his eyes. It conveys the impending insanity that will take place. The woman who plays Hannuma though over acts like there is no tomorrow. There is lot of arm waving, a very loud voice, and over the top facial expressions. It's just too much, and even embarrassing at times. I think had the actress been more toned down it would have heightened the connection to her and maybe even make us care about her fate.

Filming: The filming is quite well done despite the fact you can tell they seemed to be working with some old techniques. There were moments they scenes seemed sped up like you were watching a silent film at moments. The shots of the station are well aligned, and I like how everything is framed. Plus, the suspense is built well by knowing how to either make the guy about to go insane seem more terrifying, and then there are shots of he murder that look quite terrifying as well.

Plot: The movie does get off to a tad of a slow start at the beginning. What the director does do very well is actually give us conflicted feelings regarding Quinawi. Do you feel bad for him? A little bit. Even though he is threatening the lives of others it seems the guy has been dealt a bad situation in the society that is unmerciful t his flaws. Plus, Hannuma just toys with his feelings and Abu Siri is a jerk. The only guy worth liking is the newsstand guy who takes him in. I also didn't like how this movie places a lot of the blame on the women, and it seems to not ever not condone the guys doing this. If a woman is looked at badly, or she is even attempted to be murdered, the guy blames her for taking off her facial covering or displaying her body in some way.

Cairo Station is very short, doesn't deeply explore the culture of Egypt in a way that carefully shows what was happening there at the time this movie was filmed, and the characters sometimes don't portray their parts well. I think though that it does build the terrifying suspense well and gives us a character to feel conflicted about toward the end as far as his sanity.

Rating 6 of 10.

The Iron Gate (1958) on IMDb

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