The first part of Youssef Chahine's semi-autobiographical trilogy concerns a young student and his frustrated dreams of being an actor in WWII-era Alexandria. While not as stunning as CAIRO STATION, it's a warm and easily relatable story with strong characters (charming lead performance by Mohsin Mohieddene) and flashes of brilliance, including Fellini-esque fantasias and clever use of stock footage and ironic music. The amateur play scenes are standouts. The problems arise when it comes to the other stories interwoven with the main plot. These cover such controversial material as an aristocrat who "buys" a drunken Allied soldier to kill him for amusement but falls in love with him instead, a group of inept Communists plotting to capture Churchill, and a Jewish girl impregnated by a Muslim boy. Each of these subplots could well be a fine film on their own, but the transitions between them are too abrupt, and rightfully pegged in other reviews as "sloppy" and "messy". It leads to a lot of confusion and the nagging feeling that Chahine is piling too much on his plate.
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