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Timbuktu

Alan Gilsenan's road movie "Timbuktu" traverses a Morocco that Hope and Crosby couldn't have conjured up in their worst nightmares. 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.

Cast:
With: Eva Birthistle, Karl Geary, George Jackos, Liam O'Maonlai.

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.

Timbuktu

Ireland

Production: An MR Films, Irish Film Board presentation of a Yellow Asylum Films, Fantastic Films, MR Films production. (International sales: MR Films, Dublin.) Produced by Martin Mahon, John McDonnell, Emma Scott. Directed by Alan Gilsenan. Screenplay, Paul Freaney, from his novel.

Crew: Camera (color), P.J. Dillon; editor, Emer Reynolds. Reviewed at MOMA Premieres Series, New York, Jan. 9, 2005. English, French, Arabic dialogue. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Eva Birthistle, Karl Geary, George Jackos, Liam O'Maonlai.

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