Opening with a quote from Job, Alan Gilsenan’s road movie “Timbuktu” traverses a Morocco that Hope and Crosby couldn’t have conjured up in their worst nightmares. An Irish foray into an African heart of darkness, pic proposes mystical salvation through degradation and death: A woman and a gay hustler, her childhood pal, trek across the Sahara in search of her brother, a monk kidnapped by Algerian rebels. Alternately gaining and losing focus, pic often slips its narrative moorings only to regroup and plunge back into more-or-less linear storytelling. Exhausting if haunting pilgrimage never quite transcends the aridness of its premise, indicating meager prospects commercially.
Stonewalled in her would-be rescue mission by authorities, the woman (Eva Birthistle) and her companion (Karl Geary) hook up with a suavely sinister guide (George Jackos) — an up-close-and-personal embodiment of sexual greed and gratuitous violence. In contrast, the heroine’s brother’s fate plays out in vague, unfocused long-shots where the black masks of the rebels and the black hoods of the about-to-be-executed monks appear indistinguishable from one another. Pic’s existential mystique, comprising a pan-sexual love story and a fairy-tale death wish, never really stays the course.