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Fox Lorber presents
Alexandria Again and Forever (1990)

"I am what I am. You all invent myths. None of you dares face his reality. Transparent, vulnerable oafs... that's you, not me."
- Yehia (Youssef Chahine)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: September 28, 2000

Stars: Youssef Chahine, Zaki Abdel Wahab, Yousra
Other Stars: Menha Batraoui, Teheya Cariocca, Amr Abdel Guelil
Director: Youssef Chahine

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, adult themes, some blood)
Run Time: 01h:43m:38s
Release Date: August 14, 2000
UPC: 720917523521
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-D+C+ D+

DVD Review

Alexandria Again and Forever (Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman) is Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's third and final film (to date) about Yehia, a film director whose life bears a striking resemblance to Chahine's own. The plot concerns a hunger strike carried out by the Egyptian film industry, expressing its support for democracy (and greater artistic freedom, presumably) which Yehia joins while he is writing and planning a film about Alexander the Great. Yehia wrestles with his troubled relationship with Amr (Amr Abdel Guelil), a young actor who was Yehia's protégé and onscreen alter-ego in the first Alexandria film, finding himself unable to visualize his next project without Amr in the lead role, a part in which he has no interest. During the strike, he meets Nadia (Yousra), an intelligent, beautiful young actress who inspires Yehia to move in a different artistic direction.

It's a good idea to see Alexandria... Why? and An Egyptian Story first, as the three films are heavily interrelated and many of the returning characters are not explicitly re-introduced. Writer/director Youssef Chahine extends the semi-autobiographical saga of Yehia here, and for the first time assays the role of Yehia himself, lending a second level of self-referential complexity to this entry. Flashbacks cover the real-world events surrounding Alexandria... Why?, including the film's Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and the film is in many ways the most honest of the three, closing the cinematic distance between the director and his subject in an intensely personal way. Few directors who appear in their own films dare to portray their own lives, and Chahine's risk-taking in this regard pays off.

As always, Chahine realizes his ideas with creative sound and visuals, finding a unique style for this film, linked to but not derived directly from the earlier Alexandria films. Most notable are several musical numbers, presented with a refreshing lack of irony as Yehia remembers past events and fantasizes about the future. One evokes vintage Hollywood as Yehia and Amr dance joyfully in the streets of Berlin; another sequence resembles an Egyptian Jesus Christ Superstar as Yehia sings the glories of Amr in the age of Alexander to an amazingly catchy Eastern rock beat. These well-staged elements lend a hyperreal quality to the film, but they consistently enhance the story of Yehia's emotional and creative struggles, never diluting or distracting from them. Chahine's talented cast delivers performances that are naturalistic and credible, allowing for some intentional hyperreality during the fantasy scenes. Alexandria Again and Forever is an emotionally powerful and intellectually satisfying conclusion to the series; Chahine realizes his complex and ambitious themes successfully, and his love for film is evident throughout.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Fox Lorber presents Alexandria Again and Forever in its original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio (though the burned-in subtitles tread outside the film frame on occasion), with a letterboxed, non-anamorphic transfer. The transfer appears to have been taken from a broadcast-quality videotape as pulldown interlacing is apparent, with video scanline glitches that frequently become distracting. Dark scenes are very grainy with murky shadow detail; the image is acceptable otherwise with solid color and minimal edge enhancement, but it looks a bit worse than Fox Lorber's DVD's of the other films in the Alexandria trilogy, odd since it's the most recent of the three. It would have been preferable to see a windowboxed anamorphic transfer taken from a film print, though the film remains watchable and generally free of the softness and smearing common to video-originated transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: D+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoArabicno


Audio Transfer Review: Alexandria Again and Forever features a Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic soundtrack, in Arabic (English subtitles are provided.) The low-budget track suffers from occasional hiss and distortion, though these defects don't interfere to the point of distraction, and frequency range is acceptable, handling the film's musical numbers reasonably successfully. A competent transfer given the quality of the source.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD Production Credits
  2. DVD-ROM Weblinks
Extras Review: Fox Lorber's Alexandria Again and Forever DVD features minimal supplements—a mere 8 picture-menu chapter stops, Filmographies and Awards for the writer/director and 5 cast members, a screen crediting the DVD production staff, and DVD-ROM Weblinks to the Winstar Video and Arab Film websites. The film's burned-in English subtitles contain occasional typographical errors and cannot be turned off, so native Arabic speakers will have to put up with them, and they overlap the "black bars" a bit.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Alexandria Again and Forever is a fascinating, sometimes astounding musical/drama that continues and resolves the story begun in Alexandria... Why?. Fox Lorber's DVD presentation suffers from quality issues and minimal supplements, but don't let that stop you from taking a look at this vibrant Egyptian film. Recommended.

 


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