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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Wolof Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Wolof PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese
  • Interview with filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako

Touki Bouki

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By:
1973 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: World Cinema Project

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #685
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Review Date: December 8, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

With a stunning mix of the surreal and the naturalistic, Djibril Diop Mambe?ty paints a vivid, fractured portrait of Senegal in the early 1970s. In this French New Wave-influenced fantasy-drama, two young lovers long to leave Dakar for the glamour and comforts of France, but their escape plan is beset by complications both concrete and mystical. Characterized by dazzling imagery and music, the alternately manic and meditative Touki bouki is widely considered one of the most important African films ever made.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The first title to be released through The World Cinema Foundation’s and Criterion’s partnership (collected with 5 other films in their box set Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 1,) Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki is presented as a dual-format release in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. For Blu-ray it’s encoded with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer on a dual-layer disc, which it shares with the film Redes. For DVD it is presented on its own dual-layer disc. It has been slightly window-boxed, but this resembles the transfer on the Blu-ray.

The purpose of the World Cinema Project is to help restore and preserve films from other nations that may lack the resources to do it themselves. From this I would have (maybe incorrectly) assumed most of these films would be in devastating shape and of course I threw in the Blu-ray of Touki Bouki expecting the worst. What I viewed instead was one of the more stunning high-definition presentations I’ve seen from Criterion.

What’s immediately striking is the extraordinary amount of detail in every single frame of this film. Both close-ups and landscape shots are packed with fine details, and I found sequences involving the water and its waves fairly hypnotic. The colour scheme on average is fairly drab, but there are bursts of reds, blues, greens, and pinks scattered around that are particularly vivid and rich, most notably in a hilariously decked out “American” car painted red, white, and blue. Contrast is brilliant and black levels are purely rendered without any crushing. The only mild complaint would probably be that there are tiny black bars at the top and bottom of the screen and I’m not entirely sure if this is a mistake or intended, but it barely registers while watching.

The DVD’s standard-definition presentation comes from the same one used for the Blu-ray. It’s also sharp with impressive colours, but unsurprisingly detail and depth is nowhere near the levels of the Blu-ray, though still pretty good for DVD.

The condition of the print is also very surprising. I noticed minor wear at the sides of the frame at times, which in turn fades the image at the edges, and there are a few other blemishes scattered about, but the print is in otherwise pristine condition, so whatever restoration work was done should be commended. No matter what condition the film was in, at 40-years old this looks like it could have been filmed yesterday. Just beautiful overall.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The audio doesn’t reach the same levels as the video and its presentation, limited by age and I can only assume recording conditions (like the films of the French New Wave it has an off-the-cuff feel to it that probably caused havoc with audio) and equipment, is weak. Music, which would have been put in during post-production, sounds fine enough, but dialogue is flat, occasionally distorted, and at times very hard to distinguish. The track has been restored, however, so it is free of pops, cracks, or other forms of damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Each film in the set receives its own set of supplements. Each film receives an introduction from director and World Cinema Foundation chairman Martin Scorsese. This one runs about 2-minutes and feature Scorsese talking about the film’s standing in African cinema. There is also an interview with filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako who talks about the importance of director Djibril Diop Mambéty and his work, specifically Touki Bouki, while talking about its odd structure, the characters, and Mambéty’s style of filmmaking. It runs about 12-minutes.

Unfortunately that’s it and none of the films in the set get a wealth of material, not even a look at the restoration work, which I would have loved to have seen.

3/10

CLOSING

Supplements leave a lot to be desired but the restoration and digital transfer are both amazing.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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