Monday 14 May 2018 9.11pm
‘Back with Mory and Anta’ 2018
“Touki Bouki (1973) is like nothing else, ever, an instant ‘original’ – but filmed in Africa.”
– Philip Powers, May 2018
Went back to Touki Bouki tonight and started watching it all again. This time, I wanted to watch certain scenes again. I went to them first, and that made me want to go to others. Eventually I ended up watching the entire film again, just not in order, but chapter by chapter, in each of the three separate and distinct thirds. Sometimes, even, out of order, within those 30-minute segments. Sometimes, I watched several chapters within a segment over and over, immersing myself in it.
It’s a strange film because it feels like a documentary and it isn’t.
I suspect that the images of cattle/steers being tied up or tied down is a direct reference to films with similar images by Eisenstein and Griffith.
I don’t know what they mean. I’ll have to think on it.
In fact, the film became darker and unhappier as I watched it out of order and was more hopeful and optimistic when it was watched in order.
I think it is both. It has concrete happy, sad, and hopeful moments. It is more subversive when it is about shouting about what one believes in, while being buck-naked in a car headed for a place where you’re better dressed and appreciated as a poet, philospher or politician. It is more hopeful when there’s a boat that’s rusting off the coast which then becomes the inspiration. It’s more specific when it’s about robbing someone who tells you that you can have anything they have – for sex – and is then angry that you’ve tricked them.
The most obvious analogy is with tearaways who want to leave the world they’re tied to, like the couples in Badlands and Zabriskie Point. But unlike Bonnie and Clyde and other lovers who go on a killing spree, Mory and Anta are presented as genuine people. They’re comics and tricksters, comedians who pose as one thing, and then say nothing as they deliver monologues which say everything about their situation. How ironic, that Mory and Anta, in a work of fiction, are more believable as characters than Bonnie and Clyde.
The lack of deliberate violence is seen through their attempts to outwit people who have something they want. The inherent violence of Bonnie and Clyde is seen through the animals (beings) that are slaughtered to give them what they want. Mory and Anta are renegades and they steal and make plans to steal from anyone who they can seduce, even allowing their own seduction, to get what they want. But they don’t go on a rampage of death and destruction. They’re not even high-spirited like Martin Sheen in Badlands. They’re more like the student in Zabriskie Point who just steals a plane for a joyride, because he’s a conscientious objector to all of the life that goes on around him. There’s no explosion in Touki Bouki like the girl’s home in Zabriskie Point. In fact, Mory and Anta don’t even get to run away and be gunned down together. Mory goes his way and Anta goes her way. It’s deliberately different from people who are caught up in the experience of living a life of love. Mory and Anta are together, but only for enough time to satisfy the distraction from their boredom. They’ve not really in sync with each other. “Paris, Paris, Paris.” They’re only words in a song and only one of them goes on a ship – their dream – to find if Paris is actually what Paris is like in their mind. The other stays with what he knows and what makes him feel comfortable.
The edits that show throats being cut and blood being drained from an animal’s body are enigmatic. They don’t scream out their meaning to me. I suspect that Mory and Anta are the individual beings in the herd and that they’re attacked from outside. The cattle are probably more like how Mory and Anta act within their community compared with the parades and the colourful clothes and fancy cars. They’re outsiders – interlopers – outside of their poor surroundings. They’re cows or goats in the eyes of people who herd cows and goats. That’s why the bike has horns and is tied down with ropes. That’s why Mory is throttled with a rope around his neck when he seeks out Anta. That’s why Mory ties his bike down as if it was a wild cow because it’s not under his control. He’s adapating day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, to become something or someone who is better than who he is today.
That’s why the parade is so important in the film. It shows the people they could be if they’re bloodthirsty and entitled. But Mory and Anta aren’t entitled. They’re hippies who are drifting like a straw drifts with the tide. They’re never going to have a motorcade or a palace – not unless they steal it and are more successful than all of the other runaways and bandits.