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Kino on Video presents
"There's a boat leaving tomorrow. Let's take it."
DVD ReviewIf there's one thing we can thank Kino On Video for, it would be that they bring a wide range of international cinema often ignored by most other studios to home video, such as their release of Touki Bouki (The Hyena's Journey), from Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety, who died in 1998. Despite Touki Bouki's standing as a classic of world cinema, Mambety made only two feature-length films during a thirty-year career. He also made a handful of short films, one of which, Contras' City, is included here as an extra. For those wishing to broaden their cinematic horizons, this experimental, if sometimes heavy-handed road film comes recommended.
Touki Bouki revolves around the story of Mory and Anta, a pair of young lovers who seek to escape their home of Dakar for the imagined paradise of Paris, where they believe everything is possible. There, Mory will make his fortune, after which he will return home to flaunt it to those who formerly dismissed him. Anta, for her part, seems willing to go along with whatever Mory wants. We learn early on that she is part of a radical political group, with which she has been spending less time due to Mory. This enrages the group, who snatch up Mory early on and parade him around tied to the back of their jeep. We never learn how he gets away (especially after they state that they want to kil him), which might indicate that what follows is Mory's dream of future events.
In any case, what Mory and Anta need to get to France is money; consequently, they begin a series of amateurish attempts at scoring the needed loot. Mory fails to beat a three-card monte player, then the pair rob a wrestling show's box office, but steal the wrong box. Finally, Mory and Anta visit a local rich man Mory knows. Charlie (Ousseynou Diop) is a homosexual sugar daddy, and Mory and Anta sneak off with clothes, money, and one of Charlie's cars, a star-spangled roadster. From there they head off to buy tickets to Paris, but when the time comes to embark, Mory finds leaving more difficult than he thought.
Touki Bouki's reputation as a classic lies within its narrative experimentation and editing, which make the film occasionally hard to follow and/or inexplicable. Mambety's insertion of a bizarre white male dwelling in a tree, who figures tangentially into the story, is one of these moments. Events do not follow in a strict narrative line, and Mambety includes non sequitur events that do not seem to have much place within the film. He also holds some scenes for longer than would seem wise, such as an early one in which a local sorceress stands and laughs for an uncomfortable length of time. Mambety occasionally misjudges his barbs; on the boat, he includes a conversation between two white French citizens, who discuss how Africans are children, savages, and every other racist stereotype they can come up with. The scene simply comes off as ham-fisted, rather than serving any greater narrative point. All that said, there's enough directorial talent on display here to make Mambety's failure to finish more than one more feature a true loss.
One final note: Touki Bouki includes three scenes of animal slaughter, including an extremely grisly one at the very start of the film. Another appears to have been staged for the film. If you are squeamish about animal death onscreen, consider yourself forewarned.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original full-screen ratio, Touki Bouki looks, on the whole, not too bad. Colors seem a tad faded perhaps, but still have a strong look to them. The print has the odd bit of dirt here and there, and panning shots result in a fairly blurry image. Decent, but obviously far from flawless. The removable subtitles are clean and easy to read.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 mono track is decent, though it does have a couple of static-laden spots. The dialogue and music come across fairly well.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAn intriguing, sometimes frustrating experience, Touki Bouki will be of interest to those looking to explore or already interested in third world cinema, and those interested in narrative experimentation. Kino's DVD is a decent presentation of the film.
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