The film which put Egyptian writer/director Chahine on the international map plays like a great overlooked masterpiece of Italian neo-realism. In Cairo's busy rail terminus, passions are simmering: hard-working porter Abou Serib (Chawqi) aims to form a union to combat the corruption which divides and rules his fellow workers; his fiancée Hanouma (Rostom) uses her flirtatious charm to sell lemonade to train passengers, much to the chagrin of the official drinks concession; news vendor Kenaoui (Chahine) has designs on her too, but he's a simple-minded soul with little choice but to suffer her teasing and his colleagues' taunts. Fascinated by girlie images in magazines, he's soon yearning for revenge on a world that has excluded him. At first glance, the upfront sexuality startles in a film from an Arab country in 1958, but the bigger picture captures a society experiencing rapid change. Chahine fans out from a sweaty, realist base towards social observation, florid melodrama and dark suspense. It's a strikingly controlled, confident, bitingly effective display, which leaves you wondering where this film has been all our lives.
Cast and crew
Mohamed Abou Youssef, Abdel Hay Adib
Farid Chawqi Hind Rostom Youssef Chahine Hassan El Baroudi Abdel Aziz Khalil Naima Wasfy Said Khalil