The last film in Youssef Chahine’s autobiographical Alexandria Trilogy stars Chahine himself as his cinematic alter ego, Yehia Mourad, completing his merging of fiction with real life and drama with psychodrama. Opening with Chahine’s triumph at the Berlin Film Festival, where he took home the Silver Bear for Alexandria…Why? (the first film in the trilogy–this is layered stuff), the film explores Yehia’s obsession with his young star, Amir (Amr Abdel-Guelil), while participating in the general strike of 1987. As Yehia fantasizes about the films they would make together (one of them looks like a loony take on Jesus Christ Superstar), he elevates Amir from a kind of adopted son to cinematic messiah. But while caught up in the strike, Yehia becomes enchanted by a former actress, Nadia (Yousra), turned dedicated revolutionary, and he decides to cast her in his next feature.
This dazzling 1990 installment, the third of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s autobiographical Alexandria quartet, can be seen independently of the other two features; its writer-director stars as a famous filmmaker very much like himself, happily married but also smitten first with one of his young actors and then with a young actress he meets (Yousra). Yousra played Chahine’s wife in the second part of the trilogy, An Egyptian Story (1982), and the young actor in this film is based on Mohsen Mohiedine, who played Chahine as a young man in Alexandria, Why? Filmed in sumptuous color, this is not only one of the most passionate celebrations of bisexuality ever filmed, it’s also one of the funniest; Chahine’s tap-dance duet with his lead actor on a movie set is priceless. In Arabic with subtitles. 100 min.
by Jonathan Rosenbaum (chicagoreader.com)
The film’s remarkable range of tone and style gives us evidence of an artist in full command of his craft. Chahine moves with equal grace from the scenes of backroom political squabbling to the whacked-out farce that is Chahine’s musical production (a la Jesus Christ Superstar) of the story of Alexander the Great — a film that allows him to make pointed attacks on the contemporary political situation in his homeland. Interspersed are scenes that show the director’s supreme confidence, such as a lovely and elegant dance sequence set in Berlin, and another set against the fountains of Cannes. Chahine’s assured hand shows us a man who is unafraid of looking foolish for attempting the grand artistic gesture.
Alexandria Again and Forever plays a little with the line between fantasy and reality, as the film shows us actors portraying real people who are playing actors in the movie within this movie. Or something like that. Yet, pulling it all together is the terrific performance of Youssef Chahine, as both director and actor. After casting others to play his cinematic proxy Yehia in the first two parts of the trilogy, Chahine steps into the role he was born to play, and does so beautifully. When Nadia (Yousra) wonders aloud why he gave up the craft he so clearly worships, we in the audience might be excused for asking the same thing.
Dan Jardine (apolloguide.com)