The Yacoubian Building | Chicago Reader

The Yacoubian Building

In Alaa Al Aswany's hugely popular novel the real-life Yacoubian building, erected to house Cairo's elite and since fallen into genteel decay, functions as a compact metaphor for the shifting strata of a crumbling Egyptian class system. Tyro director Marwan Hamed's sprawling three-hour adaptation, the most expensive Egyptian movie ever made, weaves myriad plots into a sumptuously melodramatic tapestry with a star-studded cast—an addictively watchable, if somewhat uneven, spectacle. The romantic fortunes of an aging roue and the hypocritical ruthlessness of a respectably married man fit neatly into the film's vignette structure, but more complex, socially loaded story lines, like a French homosexual's seduction of a soldier and an ambitious student's transformation into a Muslim terrorist, suffer from the narrative shorthand. In Arabic with subtitles. 172 minutes.

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