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BEAU TRAVAIL (Bilingual) [Import]

3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin, Richard Courcet, Nicolas Duvauchelle
  • Directors: Claire Denis
  • Writers: Claire Denis, Herman Melville, Jean-Pol Fargeau
  • Producers: Eric Zaouali, Jérôme Minet, Patrick Grandperret
  • Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Import
  • Language: French, Italian, Russian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Release Date: Oct. 8 2002
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00006JDTD
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Product Description

Product Description

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

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on Oct. 28 2002
Format: DVD
This is a beautiful film that trusts the audience to understand connections between the characters that are not explained in typical narrative and conversational scenes. Even though I would argue that Moby Dick is the Great American Novel, I felt that Melville's overwrought novella, Billy Budd, was so drearily overwritten that ultimately Melville's meagre psychogical insight evaporated from the overegged prose. This film does just the opposite: the scenes of the African landscape and the legionaires' bodies are not there for simple aesthetic enjoyment (although they are gorgeously rendered), but are expressionistic land- and body-scapes, the tableaux upon which the story is written. As such, it's a film that isn't about words (quite the opposite of Melville's dire verbosity in Billy Budd), but about a vocabulary of desire (that transcends, although it also reflects, such categories as colonialism and homosexuality). The film is Claire Denis' masterpiece to date, the best adaptation of any book I've seen, and has the most beautiful ending of any film I've seen. I'd keep on writing and gushing hyperbolic about the film, but I think you get the point; it's one of my favourites.
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Format: DVD
Even though I've seen quite a few French films this seems to be one of better ones. Is this movie slow pace?, yes but it's done for a reason. While viewing this you can tell that director Claire Denis had a tight budget and limited technical resources when this film was shot, but her fecund imagination and masterful directorial skills don't let those constraints appear on the screen. Visually, Beau Travail is rich in telling imagery, stunning settings, and powerful contrasts. Narrated in voiceover by the central character, Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant), Beau Travail uses minimal dialogue in telling a story that is simply plotted, but complicated in overtones and undertones, much of which is provided by subtle suggestion and richly ambiguous imagery. Running throughout like a leitmotif are shots of the squad of legionnaires in rigorous exercise and military training exercises, as well as attending to the daily rituals of laundry, bathing, and shaving.

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.
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Format: DVD
Beau Travail is a modern-day update of Billy Budd, although the plot is much changed and the characters more ambiguous. Directed by French director Claire Denis (best known for 1988's "Chocolat"), Beau Travail stars Denis Lavant as a Foreign Legion officer in Africa. Lavant is the perfect officer, but he finds himself largely ignored by his commandant (Michel Subor), whom he greatly admires. His jealousy is piqued when he sees his commandant drawn to a new recruit, Sentain (played by Grégoire Colin).
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.
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Format: DVD
Introspective and subtle, Claire Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL offers a modern retelling of Herman Melville's BILLY BUDD, transposing the tale of an officer who self-destructs through his jealousy of a new recruit to an outpost of the French Foreign Legion. And although the film is elegant in both its simplicity and purity, I myself found it a shade too simple and pure to be completely effective.
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
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