Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fares of the City [fares al-medina] (1992)

Fares of the City [fares al-medina] (1992) - (Mahmoud Hemida) Egyptian film poster

Plot Summary: This film by director Mohamed Khan is set in Cairo in the year 1988. The filming was done in 32 days beginning 26 May 1990. It narrates a complex tale about the life of Fares (Mahmoud Hemida) who is a prosperous and somewhat conniving mid-level businessman dealing in currency, automobiles and real estate. His wealth comes from currency trading and the running of a number of large commercial projects. The main line of this multi-threaded plot is a conflict between Fares and another slightly more properous businessman and drug merchant Ahmed Al-Wezzan (Abdel Aziz Makhyoun). As the film begins Fares worries how he will raise the five million pounds he needs to pay a debt to Ahmed and he ends up selling everything to manage it, but in the end it is Fares who triumphs in a series of tense and sometimes violent encounters.

When the story begins Fares is quarrelling with his wife Dalal (Soad Nasr) about their son (Abdel Aziz al-Qarantili). He had separated from Dalal to live with her son Bakr (Farid Naguib Sorur), a university student, and with his new lover. This is the beginning of another plot line in which the son is kidnapped by Ahmed's gang, disappears, eventually becomes addicted to drugs and is then found using them and beaten up by Fares in a public bathroom.

In a moment of despair, after having lost everything to Ahmed Fares hits an ederly pedestrian with his car and then takes him to a big hospital to treat him at his own expense. Although Fares does not know this at first, this old man makes a habit of throwing himself in front of fancy automobiles so he can live comfortably for a while in a big hospital. Fares and the old opportunist find a bond of some kind and eventually become drinking buddies, replicating in a superfical way the false identities of father and son, an idea the elderly man had first broached to Fares while he was checking his "victim" into a hospital.

Soon after they establish this new bond of trust the old man confesses to Fares with startling honesty his habitual strategy of becoming a fake victim in traffic accidents to get periods of free hospital room and board for himself. He recounts his specific encounter with Fares in detail, and explains how he had sized him up and intentionaly set out to dupe him. Fares accepts this with equanimity and they remain friends. In this moment of candor with the old man, Fares also tells the nurse in attendance Hoda (Lucy) the story of their contrived relationship, makes a date to meet her and begins a relationship with her.

This film is full of freeway footage in and around Cairo by cinematographer Kamal Abdel Aziz, with frequent insertion of original cuts from old Om Kolsum performances to illustrate the fondness Fares has for her music and sometimes to accentuate points in the story line with her lyrics.

The film's performers are Mahmoud Hemida, Aida Riad, Soad Nasr, Abdel Aziz Makhyoun, Hassan Hosny, Ahmed Bedir, Lucy, Osman Abdel Moneim, Mohamed Metwalli, Atia Oweysi, Lotfi Labieb, Khaled El Sawy, Mahmoud Al-Lawzi, Abdel Aziz al-Qarantili and Farid Naguib Sorur.

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