Touki Bouki (1973)
August 24, 2015 7:25 AM - Subscribe

Mory, a cowherd, and Anta, a university student, try to make money in order to go to Paris and leave their boring past behind. Part of the Criterion on Hulu Film Club.
posted by latkes (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Note that the first five minutes of this film includes extremely graphic slaughterhouse footage. If you're disturbed by images of animals in distress, skip to the 0:05:00 mark. You won't have missed any narrative elements.

I don't think the footage re-occurs in the film, but it's been about a year since I've seen it. Can someone who watched it this weekend confirm?
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:21 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I skipped the slaughterhouse as recommended, but some people kill and butcher a goat a little while later.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:06 PM on August 27, 2015

“Gods Fall Down: The Mythical World of Senegalese Wrestling,” John B. Thompson, SB Nation, 12 March 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 11:37 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, the slaughterhouse scene is repeated at least in part at the end. It's not so bad that you can't just cover it with your hand.

The same cannot be said for the sound design in much of the picture though. Lots of sirens, babies crying, etc. that make it hard to watch in some places. On the other hand it has some excellent music in a few places, even if it repeats “Paris, Paris” endlessly.

Am I to infer that pretty much everything that happened in the movie after the first act didn't actually happen? It's all an extended fantasy of Mory's as he an Anta lounge on the cliff post-lovemaking? I'm not sure if that pisses me off or if it makes the whole thing brilliant. Either way it's a document of an interesting time to be a young person in Senegal.

Thanks for posting it, latkes.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:43 AM on August 28, 2015

My take was that the last scene was a flashback. Mory is staring at his wrecked motorcycle, thinking about how much his inability to get on the ship has cost him, and he remembers how good it was before.

I haven't rewatched it recently, but I don't think there are explicit signifiers supporting either reading, so if you'd prefer to think of it as a flashback rather than an "it's was all a dream" ending, I think you're free to.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2015

Ian A.T.: “I don't think there are explicit signifiers supporting either reading”
You can't see the face of Mory's lover, so it may or may not be Anta, but I thought the unbroken cow skull and identical shot of the sailboat was what tipped it off as a fantasy. After reflecting further, especially considering the following identical shot of the boy driving the cattle, perhaps you're right and it is meant to say that even after all that happened nothing changed. The inertia of life goes on and days pass the same as the ever have.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:02 PM on August 30, 2015

Hi Movie Buddies,

I am in contract to buy a house and have suddenly lost all of my free time. I haven't watched anything and didn't get to this yet. Just wanted to fess up since I put this movie in queue. I'll comment when I finally get to it, hopefully soon.

posted by latkes at 7:28 AM on August 31, 2015

I finally watched it; thanks for joining me in this one. I liked it a lot, especially those long musical interludes you mention ob1quixote. That first use of Paris Paris while the couple is motoring across the Senagalese landscape and that last set of scenes especially worked for me.

I didn't take the movie to be an extended dream sequence. I took this as a movie that used realism and non-realism and symbolism together in an overlapping polyrhythm. This is happening and that is happening and both are true in the universe of this movie. Some of this and that are absurd or purely symbolic, but everything felt equally "real" in the terms of this movie. I agree on one level that the extended sailboat shot does imply that the escape fantasy displayed is just a fantasy, but I didn't take the sailboat as literal either.

Speaking of symbolism, I enjoyed the way everyone was constantly traveling in I believe every single scene in this film, starting with the cowherds moving their cattle to the slaughterhouse and through that last sailboat at the end.
posted by latkes at 8:27 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I forgot I wanted to ask you all what you thought of the interlude in the middle where Mory steals the clothes and the car. I took it pretty bad: Seemed to me there's this really stereotyped character who represents wealth/bourgeois values/Parisian values/laziness by being gay in an effeminate and highly sexualized way. Then we as the audience are encouraged to take some pleasure in watching him get looted. On the possibly positive side, the fact that the gayness is made explicitly instead of implicit is at least an interesting contrast to homophobic stereotypes in American films of the time.
posted by latkes at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2015

My intentionally self-delusional take on that sequence was to just focus on how the film portrayed an explicitly homosexual character as having a high social status, influential friends, and access to power and money...and left it at that.

I'm sure that you wouldn't have to go more than a millimeter under the surface to discover that the film was actually trying to say something really grody with that character; namely, as you mentioned, that his homosexuality and well-regarded place in the world are a metaphor for how corrupt and perverted the upper-class has gotten. Ugh.

I know that in most cases turning a blind eye to the artist's intention is usually not the best course of action, but here it feels like the right thing to do, and even a little subversive. "Yeah, I know what you were trying to say, I just prefer to focus on the fact that you depicted a strong gay character in your film."

(I certainly don't fault anyone for focusing on the negative reading, or for being grossed out by it.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

My take was similar. I was amazed that an Senegalese movie from 1973 portrayed a gay man in a positive way at all. Despite the fact the guy was a little lecherous, the character was likable, at least to me. In retrospect, you're probably right that he was meant to be unlikable to a Senegalese audience.

On the other hand, I feel like the over-broadness of that character is one more point in support of my "extended fantasy" reading. Of a piece with the fact that the person who steals Mory's motorcycle from Anta is a caveman.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:36 PM on September 10, 2015

I really did this movie a disservice by watching it while struggling to stay awake last night. I don't know how much of the kind of surrealness was really there and what was me, but yeah, the sound design was definitely odd. Not just with the unusual focus on off-screen sounds like the baby crying, but I was getting disoriented by the narration as well, like sometimes it was clearly narration and others, it seemed almost like post-production redubbing or something.

I definitely should rewatch this again at some point, because I did really enjoy it and I feel like there is still a lot I'm missing. In fact, the more confusing things I remember about it now (the parade, the clothes, the body in the box, the wrestling theme*, the caveman guy), the more I want to see it again.

Colonialism is obviously a major theme, but it really can't not be with anything set in a colonial culture, I guess. It's always just there. I did get the distinct impression of it as almost like an artifice, a theme-park version with the Paris, Paris, Paris theme song, the dissonance of the architecture and the rituals, and Mory's idealized notions about it and his struggle to cut himself off from his roots.

*I'm going to read that Senegalese wrestling article in a minute, but I especially liked the trash talking part.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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