- A superb film from Egyptian director Youssef Chahine—fast-paced, engaging, and turns into a wonderful thriller with an edge in the final act
- It is edited like a Capra’s It Happened One Night (we have a lot of fast motion photography here actually)- low average shot length, and dialogue just as witty—but the subject matter material turns into something much heavier- again, it starts off with the witty light dialogue but turns into a Hitchcockian or Peeping Tom-like thriller about obsession
- Set in the titular location- a busy train station that matches (and aids) the films energy— a bustle to the crowd
- Shots from Chahine’s (he is the lead character as well as director) point of view gives us insight into his fixation on the shapely Hind Rustum character and eventual madness
- At 37 minutes a shot of Chahine’s character on the front left of the frame, with a man egging on the Farid Shawqi character beating his fiancée (Rustum’s character) in the back right- a great deep focus frame
- Extreme close-ups of Chahine’s darting eyes – showing his damaged psyche—same with the exaggerated sound design as evidence that he’s losing his mind. This would make Hitchcock proud— Aronofsky would do it in Pi – you don’t just tell us a character is in a certain state of mind- you use cinema style
- Chahine smartly uses a narrative device – a news article about a murder as gossip by the ensemble at the train station throughout the film – great foreshadowing but it also has an effect (part of the recipe) on the mental makeup of his character
- another genius narrative device is the girl waiting for her husband/lover/boyfriend at the station as well– she doesn’t really speak– it parallels and contrasts with the Chaine character- I think it is a statement by Chaine meditating on the thin line between love and obsession
- Impressive deep focus shot at 43 minutes- a man front left of the frame facing the camera, another front right of the frame in profile—just designing the frame- neither speaks—the two that are actually in dialogue are in the middle middle (location on frame and depth) and middle right (location on frame) background (depth)
- Again the last 15 minutes is a strong thriller—kicked off but Chaine’s character destroying his shrine room- a disturbing scene
- A tight 77 minutes
- Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film
I think I recommended this film to you. I knew it would end up at around an HR (the same as Central Station) from your evaluations.
Do you think Chahine is one of the top 10 performers of 1958? I think certainly yes. He plays his character well.
@Azman- you did- thank you. This one was not on my radar prior to your suggestion.
I’d also suggest blazing sun and a few other Chahine works. He isn’t a phenomenal director, but I think he can crack your top 500 list. While nothing lives up to the final 20 minutes of Bab El Hadid (Cairo Station), his other films are still worthy of checking out.
I think Blazing Sun is close to Cairo Station but it doesn’t have a final act or visual storytelling like Cairo Station does. I’d first check out Blazing Saddles. It launched Omar Sharif’s career. He is good in the movie
Chahine changed Arab cinema and put it on the map and gave Omar Sharif his debut.
Here is a good article with Chahine films ranked.
None of his films are on the top 2000(of TSPDT), but they are still good.
I had briefly talked about this movie on the 1958 page. In my comment on the 1958 page, I mention that it’s taut and has a good score(you mention that too). I mention about the visual storytelling ( “you don’t just tell us a character is in a certain state of mind- you use cinema style”. This was perfectly described.). I even mentioned about the ending act being good and you say that as well as well as the nice b and w shots.
Drake, you always like to compare a film to another film. You use Hitchcock as a comparison. I like that. What other films could be inspired by this or what films did Central Station take inspiration from? Did you notice similarities to Sunset Boulevard? Norma’s love and obsession leading to murder is similar. Also that incredible ending seems to be narratively inspired by Blvd. The role play, disillusioned world and luring Kenawi into the police reminded me of how Norma was arrested at the end of Sunset Blvd.
Anyways, incredible review. I agree with all the points.
Drake any recommendations of similar taut black and white thrilling movies?
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