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Al-asfour (1972)

 -  Drama  -  28 October 2007 (UK)
7.0
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Title: Al-asfour (1972)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Salah Kabil
Ali El Scherif
Mahmoud El-Meliguy
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Seif El Dine
Mariam Fakhr Eddine
Habiba
Mohsena Tewfik ...
Bahia
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28 October 2007 (UK)  »

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Al-ousfour  »

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Featured in The Story of Film: An Odyssey: Episode #1.11 (2011) See more »

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Subtle political drama from Egypt's greatest filmmaker
10 August 2011 | by (Denver, CO) – See all my reviews

We live in a time where more and more cinema is available to more and more people than any other time in history, and yet, some of the all-timers still have yet to get their fair share of the spotlight. Egypt's greatest filmmaker, Youssef Chahine, has to be near the forefront of this group, with a whopping FOUR of his forty-five films currently available through Netflix, a list that doesn't even include his most famous and acclaimed triumph, 1958′s masterful potboiler "Cairo Station". "The Sparrow" is my fourth Chahine, after "Cairo Station", the "Matter of Life & Death" fantasy of "An Egyptian Story" and the fiery parable "The Land", whose passion "The Sparrow" shares, and whose one-dimensional polemic rhetoric The Sparrow transcends.

"The Sparrow" is an ensemble drama of sorts, set during 1967′s Six-Day War between Israel and the United Arab Republic of Egypt. The film followed a young policeman (Salah Kabil) trying to unearth government corruption while dealing with looking for his father, as well as his half-brother (Ali El Scherif), an incendiary journalist and soldier trying to affect change on the homefront while dealing with corruption on his own. Describing it this way makes it seem like more of a simplistic propaganda piece, but the film is nuanced and complex, replete with subplots including a local sheik (Mahmoud El-Meliguy) miffed at his overprotection, the search for a Keyser Soze-like local crimelord, and the strong woman (Mohsena Tewfik) whose residence much of the film revolves around, and who progressively becomes the focus as the climax rises and Gamal Nasser Hussein's Egypt crumbles.

Chahine manages to make the film rousing and patriotic while reigning in the potential for demonizing one-note jingoism (something not easily done considering it revolves around the touchy subject of a war lost not half a decade before). From a storytelling standpoint, Chahine chooses to provide expository information in a series of almost Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness harsh-edits that barges into the mainline in ways that are pretty confusing until you get the hang of them, but it proves valuable in keeping the film moving while filling you in on what needs to be known (useful, considering I know little but the most basic particulars about the Six-Days War). Pretty impeccable from top to bottom, "The Sparrow" is a passionate, personal story told with subtlety and intrigue, vibrant characterization and dramatic economy. Chahine had yet to let me down, and "The Sparrow" just raises him further up.

{Grade: 8.5/10 (B+) / #7 (of 43) of 1972}


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