Chahine's account of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign of 1798 is idiosyncratic, sprawling, wicked. It offers an oblique comment on Egypt's place in the world today, but typically chooses to focus on affairs of the heart, seeing international relations in terms of emotional exploitation and sexual attraction. Louis Caffarelli (Piccoli), a one-legged homosexual, arrives with Bonaparte's scientific expedition and falls in love with two Arab brothers, one for his body, the other for his mind. The film's strong gay interest is clinched by Chéreau's brilliant performance as Napoleon. Chahine is too wise to blame anyone for what happened in Egypt: he reaches for new notions of cooperation.