Mory and Anta are star-crossed lovers, desperate to get away from the doldrums of their everyday lives in Dakar. Mory spends his time restlessly tearing around the city on his motorbike, adorned with the ominous skull of a cow, while university student Anta follows him almost wordlessly, her sexual ambiguity generating an aura of metropolitan mystique. Planning the right time to make an unencumbered escape, Mory begs, steals and borrows so the two can immerse themselves in the higher echelons of Senegalese society. Having nabbed the clothes and money of an effeminate businessman whom they had approached for help, the two jack his Americanised car, and plan to board a boat to France.
It’s a simple story, Mory and Anta essentially the valiant couple from every escapist movie, but there is much more to be experienced here. From a cinematic perspective, Touki Bouki is an enthralling mélange of many different filmic traditions. The jump-cuts of French New Wave and montages of early Soviet cinema show that director Djibril Diop Mambéty had certainly done his homework, but the film is no frail facsimile of these styles. Mambéty’s audio-visual idiolect engenders a sensation of impatience, the sounds of each scene overflowing into the one preceding it. A pompous exchange between Parisians demonstrates a cynicism for Western influence common to many African films, but for the most part the film is cheerfully optimistic about Mory and Anta’s goal. Hilarious, surreal and vivacious, Touki Bouki is a real gem aching to be sought out.