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Beau Travail

Tell your homies you love them (do it now!!)


Release date: 1999
Director: Claire Denis
Language: French, Italian, Russian

Who should watch this movie: Card carrying members of the Claire Denis fan club. Folks who read and/or write queer film theory. 

When should you watch this movie: With your cinephile friends in the morning after a night out. On a lazy afternoon while you’re waiting for your bread dough to rise. 

The sell: A film as tender as it is brutal, Beau Travail trains a loving eye on the men of the French Foreign Legion. Told largely from the hindsight perspective of Chief Adjutant Galoup, the film moves between Galoup’s present residence in Marseilles and his time training Legionnaires at an outpost in Djibouti.  In these flashbacks, Galoup and the men run a series of exercises and obstacle courses. The training sequences have such a dance-like quality, set against the stark white sands of Djibouti, that at times it feels like you’re watching a ballet. Relationships between Galoup, the men, and superior officer Forrestier sit in unspoken tension, somewhere between respect and desire. It is desire, however, which pushes the story forward. Plot movement is so subtle that it’s hard to call it action, but in place of action there is building intensity of mood. The changes are almost imperceptible but the ending delivers an emotional blow that is at the same time expected and utterly devastating. Claire Denis is a genius of color and movement, and her genius is embodied with breathtaking mastery by Denis Lavant (in the role of Galoup). The result of their collaboration is – and I don’t say this lightly – transcendent. 


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