BEAU TRAVAIL (Bilingual) [Import]
Inspired by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Beau Travail is the most provocative and accomplished film yet by French director Claire Denis (Chocolat, I Can't Sleep, Nenette and Boni). Set against the stunning East African enclave of Djibouti, Beau Travail follows a troupe of men in a small French Foreign Legion outpost. Exercising their muscular torsos under the blaring sun, each day the Legionnaires engage in a hypnotically choreographed routine of drills, chores, and mock battles. Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant) seems the ideal Legionnaire: a brooding loner, cut off from his past. He runs the troupe like a well-oiled machine, until his jealously for a promising young recruit, Sentain, threatens the delicate balance of his life. With the haunting suspense of a Greek tragedy, Galoup's uncontrollable urge to destroy Sentain ultimately leads to his own downfall.
The movies of French director Claire Denis (I Can't Sleep, Trouble Every Day) are magical to some viewers and maddening to others because of the indirect way she tells her stories. Plot and character are revealed through what feel like inconsequential moments, while the important events seem to happen between the scenes. Beau Travail is more accessible than most, partly because of the simplicity of its plot (a jealous Foreign Legion sergeant ruins his own career when his beloved commander becomes fond of a young recruit) but mostly because of the vividness of its imagery, particularly sensuous shots of muscular men sweating in the sun or swimming in the ocean. It's unabashedly homoerotic, but it's also a compelling portrait of the basic emotional drives felt by men in extreme circumstances. --Bret Fetzer
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Top Customer Reviews
The exercise sequences are highly choreographed. Whether engaged in yoga-like movements, or crawling under barbed wire, or traversing rope like high wire artists against the tropical blue sky, Denis mines the images of these lean, hard, half-naked men to make her points. Accompanying much of this footage with music from Britten's Billy Budd adds intensity and a further ritualistic strangeness to the mix.Into the status quo enters a newcomer, Sentain (Gregoire Colin), who proves to be popular with the other men and with the commander, Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor). Galoup's jealousy is aroused, and with the inevitability of Greek myth, the events unfold. The script throws in a passing line to the effect that Subor has been dogged by rumors, but the rumors are unspecified.Read more ›
The movie has some simple and beautiful scenery of barren Africa; accordingly it won several awards for its cinematography, including a Cesar (the equivalent of the French Oscar). The tone of the film is mesmerizingly aloof, with little dialogue and character development (most are nameless and credited simply as "legionnaire"). However, the movie is glacier paced, relying on repeated imagery and stark narration. There are also far too many scenes in which the camera lingers on the legionnaires training or ironing their clothes. Despite the languid pace, the movie is rarely boring, as it manages to maintain a sense of intrigue. In addition, the ending is amusingly peculiar and bewildering.
Still, BEAU TRAVAIL has two things going for it: director Denis' cinematic eye and superior performances throughout. One truly senses the location in all its elemental nature, and the cinematography is remarkable for its restrained elegance. The cast follows suit, with direct and underplayed performances that fold seamlessly into both Denis' atmosphere and the story itself, and the result is often quite stylish.
But for all its elegance and style, I found BEAU TRAVAIL too introspective and subtle for its own good; to me it lacks any significant substance, with both story and characters slipping through my attention as easily as sand slips through my hand. While this is doubtlessly part of director Denis' intent, and while I have admired many a film with a notably elusive touch, my ultimate reaction to BEAU TRAVAIL is that it is a rather superficial exercise in style over substance, and I cannot say that it leads me to interest in the director's other work.
The DVD transfer is reasonable, if not entirely first rate, and there are few bonuses of any kind. In passing, I also note that BEAU TRAVAIL is often marketed as a film with homoerotic context and imagery, but I personally did not find it so. Final word: worth a look, but not greatly memorable for all that.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Most recent customer reviews
Unable to watch movie due to it was Region 2 format & at the time of ordering dvd there was no indication or warning that it was in Region 2 format only.Published 3 months ago by Clive - Edmonton, Canada
"Beau Travail" (1999) is directed by Claire Denis (Chocolat, White Material). The film is about the Legionnaire's life, and is mostly a series of images of the soldiers... Read morePublished 8 months ago by G. Edmonson
Do you ever catch yourself watching a movie that hasn't been worth your time, but stick to it through the end 'just in case' and thinking to yourself.... Read morePublished on June 12 2004 by Stephen G.
Beau Travail is Claire Denis's reductionist take on Melville's tragic tale of Billy Budd. While Melville gives us all we need to understand the plight of the beautiful and tragic... Read morePublished on April 16 2004 by Ned K. Wynn
and oodles simply oodles of body-odor!
TWO STARS and that only for the pounding disco [?] sequences. Read more
I saw *Beau Travail* at the theatres and thought it was excellent. And purchasing the DVD, I still think it's an incredibly good film. Read morePublished on April 25 2003 by An American in China
Beay Travial (beautiful work) is Denis' best film yet. The story is of a Legionare Sergeant who is consumed by jealousy over a talented recruit, but, don't be fooled, the execution... Read morePublished on April 23 2003 by 24fps
The only thing I enjoyed about this movie is the laugh I got out of reading the good reviews. It reminds me of a scene from the play "Art". Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2003
Those reviewers who gave this film low ratings should stick to watching Braveheart and Sleepless in Seattle. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2003 by RICH B
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