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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Foreign > Africa > Mandabi (aka Money Order/1968)

Mandabi (1968)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: B-



Ousmane Sembene’s second feature film Mandabi (1968, Senegal) has been referred to as a comedy, but there is something deeper going on about the situations in the lives of the people who inhabit the world he has created, going all the way to the screenplay.  The title translates into “money order” and is the object of at the center of all the fuss as Ibrahima, until he tries to cash it.  The idea is that the document is supposed to protect his wealth until the document reaches him, then he can redeem it and enjoy his wealth.


The problem is that this works more easily in a first world country than Africa, and though the endless attempts to cash in the piece of paper have some of their amusing moments, what really is striking is that it becomes a parable about the limits of wealth.  This may be repetitious, but necessary for the film to get its points across.  The lack of access to wealth and especially near-wealth reveals the lack of happiness in profound ways around him, the ways in which he and his family are trapped beyond wealth.  When his debts come up, he realizes the lack of value his life has, especially to those he does business with.  Even the post office that has the money order cannot redeem it.  The results are an interesting reflection on the society it comes from.


The letterboxed 1.66 X 1 image shows its age, being a generation or two down, but still having some color consistency, however foiled by the said age.  The EastmanColor shot by cinematographer Paul Soulignac is starting to go and with the old-fashioned burned-in subtitles, this print may have long faded away.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono also shows the films age and is likely a few generations down itself.  The combination is passable at best, while the only extra are four trailers to other New Yorker product.  At the least, Mandabi is worth seeing for how post-Colonialism is something not easy to recover from, something viewers now will hopefully realize for the film to work.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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