Classic Movie Review: Touki Bouki (1973) #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter T

Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.

Title: Touki Bouki
Release Date: May 1973
Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty
Production Company: Cinegrit | Studio Kankourama

Before the opening credits of Touki Bouki are finished, the film depicts the slaughter of cattle in graphic detail. So I knew this would be a tough film to watch.  In fact, slaughtering animals is a repeating motif of this film.  If you are squeamish, consider this your warning.

The nation of Senegal does not have an extensive film industry, but Touki Bouki  stands out as a highlight of the 1970s golden era of Senegalese cinema. The film draws influence from the French New Wave and relies on some deft editing.  Scenes from the present, past, and fantasy are intercut, with some images repeated multiple times in the film.  At times it feels as surreal as Un Chien Andalou and other times it feels like an music video from the 1980s. The edits create contrasts between natural and urban settings, the ancient and modern, and the African and colonised.

The story is about a young man, a cowherd named Mory (Magaye Niang) who drives a motorcycle with a cow skull on the handlebars, and a young woman, a university student named Anta (Mareme Niang).  They meet in Dakar and decide to run away together to Paris where they hope to make their fortune.  Much of the film depicts their attempts to steal the money they need to travel to Paris.  But really the plot is secondary to the imagery. I confess that I don’t quite “get” this movie, but I do appreciate what Mambéty is doing.

Rating: ****


Podcasts of the Week Ending December 8

On the Media :: Whose Streets?

An expose on news media coverage that biases the priority of the automobile and questions the “heartwarming” stories of people walking long ways to work and transit inequality.

BackStory :: Forgotten Flu

100 years ago, a deadly influenza tore through the United States killing people in their peak of health.

Code Switch :: The Story of Mine Mill

The history of a radical leftist union that organized miners and millworkers in Birminham, Alabama, bringing together Black and white workers at the height of Jim Crow in the 1930s-1960s.

The Memory Palace :: Revolutions

A tribute to the humble – and noisy – washing machine.

99% Invisible :: Oñate’s Foot

The controversy over how Albuquerque would commemorate the conquistador who some see as New Mexico’s founding father and others see as a mass murderer

Nobody’s Home :: “Brown in a Different Way:” The Gentrification Dilemma

Nobody’s Home is a miniseries focusing on the problem of vacant housing in the United States.  It’s strange to listen to in Boston where the shortage of housing is the big problem.  But this episode on gentrification and the long history of inequality in housing ties both issues together well.

Book Review: Assault on Paradise by Tatiana Lobo

Around the World for a Good Book selection for Costa Rica
Author: Tatiana Lobo
Title: Assault on Paradise
Publication Info: Willimantic, CT : Curbstone press, 1998.

After completing this novel, I saw it described as a picaresque which is “a genre of prose fiction which depicts the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society.” The genre also has no plot.  I wish I knew these things going into the book because it would’ve made more sense (especially the plotlessness).  Assault on Paradise is the tale of Pedro Albaran who arrives in colonial Central America escaping the Inquisition.  First he works as a book-keeper for a monastery.  On a journey to another settlement he and some companions are separated and live on their own in the jungle.  Pedro falls in love with and has children with an indigenous woman known only as “The Mute” and their whole relationship is totally creepy.  After her death, Pedro returns to society just as the indigenous population launches and uprising.  The book details the sordid underside of colonialism – the conquistadors and the church – and all its levels of corruption.  It was a difficult read but that may be more of reader error than the book itself.

Recommended booksThe Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
Rating: **1/2