Inspired by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Beau Travail, set in the east African enclave of Djibouti, is the most provocative and accomplished film yet by Claire Denis (I Can't Sleep, Nenette and Boni). Focusing on the lives of men in a small French Foreign Legion outpost, the film emphasizes the banality and ritual of their days in the scorching sun. They spend their time practicing military drills, exercising vigorously and performing domestic chores. Contact with the locals is minimal, largely limited to nocturnal soirées in open-air discos. Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant), barely older than his charges, seems the ideal Legionnaire: a brooding loner, cut off from his past. He runs the troupe like a well-oiled machine, until the arrival of a new recruit, Sentain (Grégoire Colin), threatens to upset the delicate balance that is his life. This is a poetic and lyrical exploration of a special, very enclosed male world through its rituals, codes and barely contained emotional conflicts.
The film is saturated with a rich musical score combined with lush, stark images of the raw beauty of the men's muscular torsos juxtaposed against a stunning African landscape. It creates a visual poem that is actualized through ballet-like movements, and resonates with the power of a Greek tragedy.
90 min., Unrated
In French with English subtitles
CLAIRE DENIS, JEAN-POL FARGEAU
ARNAUD DE MOLERON
CHARLES HENRY DE PIRREFEU
THONG DUY NGUYEN
MARTA TAFESSE KASSA