Though it runs out of gas in an unsurprising finale, "TGV" is a film for armchair tourists who might enjoy watching a busload of hapless passengers suffer the slings and arrows of an overland bus ride down the coast from Dakar, Senegal, to Conakry, Guinea.

Though it runs out of gas in an unsurprising finale, “TGV” is a film for armchair tourists who might enjoy watching a busload of hapless passengers suffer the slings and arrows of an overland bus ride down the coast from Dakar, Senegal, to Conakry, Guinea. One of the few African comedies able to make foreigners laugh, this second feature by Moussa Toure (“Toubab Bi”) is a low-key social satire that should make the list of specialized fests and work in Francophone markets.

Passengers on the perky, brightly painted TGV (nickname for the bus), owned and operated by Rambo (Makena Diop) and his assistant Demba (Al Hamdou Traore), are warned of trouble even before leaving the depot. Ominous army trucks rumble through Dakar, alert to the breakout of a rebellion on the Guinea border. The passengers who decide to make the trip anyway are a motley crew of comic types, whose personalities are not developed enough to make them memorable.

Along the road, Rambo picks up a deposed government minister, who is beating a fast retreat with his wife, and a pair of chirpy French tourists (co-producer Bernard Giraudeau and Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) emerging from a ruinous canoe trip.

The heroic little bus careens through torrential rains and broiling heat, offering splendid views of the African brush. Toure and director of photograpy/co-scripter Alain Choquart keep close to the actors and their reactions, recalling the style of old Hollywood movies set in Africa.

Based on a real-life episode of secessionists and a French hostage case, “TGV” wisely uses a light hand with its political commentary, disparaging both toward Africa’s would-be democratic governments and its former colonialists. Wasis Diop’s music track is a big plus.

TGV

(French-Senegalese)

Production

A Flach Film, Les Films de la Saga (France)/Les Films du Crocodile (Senegal) production. (International sales: Flach Pyramide, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Francois Lepetit, Bernard Giraudeau, Moussa Toure. Directed by Moussa Toure. Screenplay, Toure, Alain Choquart.

Crew

Camera (color), Choquart; editor, Josie Miljevic; music, Wasis Diop; sound (Dolby SR), Dominique Levert, Catherine D'Hoir, Thierry Delor. Reviewed at Carthage Film Festival (competing), Tunis, Oct. 25, 1998. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Rambo - Makena Diop Demba - Al Hamdou Traore Roger - Bernard Giraudeau Sylvia - Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu (French and Wolof dialogue)
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