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Beau travail (1999)Beau travail (1999)

Beau travail (1999)

Claire Denis’ portrait of masculine angst and decaying military tradition is an operatic juggernaut

Drama

7.9

movie

France

French, Italian, Russian

Original, Thought-provoking

1999

Claire Denis, Female director

Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe

92 min

Synopsis

Foreign Legion officer Galoup recalls his once glorious life, training troops in the Gulf of Djibouti. His existence there was happy, strict and regimented, until the arrival of a promising young recruit, Sentain, plants the seeds of jealousy in Galoup's mind.

Our Take

7.9
Igor Fishman

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

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