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Beau Travail

3.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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(Oct 15, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

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). This simple tale, distilled to the essence of a ballad or poem, is drenched with male eroticism and cast in the form of a languorous tropical dream.

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 jealousy for a promising young recruit, Sentain (Gregoire Colin), threatens the delicate balance of his life. With the haunting suspense of Greek tragedy, Galoup's uncontrollable urge to destroy Sentain ultimately leads to his own downfall.

Amazon.com

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

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, Michel Subor
  • Directors: Claire Denis
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French, Italian, Russian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 15, 2002
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JDTD
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,518 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Beau Travail" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 28, 2002
Format: DVD
"Beau Travail" had its US premiere at the New York Film Festival of 1999, followed by a limited release in select cities. "Select" is the keyword here, as "Beau Travail" is clearly a film for a specialized audience - dialogue is minimal, and events are indicated rather than dramatized. But for those willing to take the cinematic leap, Claire Denis has created a film that is breathtakingly visual and unique.
Instead of doing a literal adaptation of Herman Melville's "Billy Budd," Denis uses it as a starting point. "Beau Travail" is a memory piece that takes on the hypnotic quality of a fever dream; Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant), banished from the Foreign Legion and living in present-day Marseilles, looks back on his Legionaire days and the episode that brought about his downfall - his jealousy and persecution of the virtuous, self-sacrificing Sentain (Gregoire Colin). Stationed in the northeast African nation of Djibouti, a remote area of blue skies, blazing sun, sparkling sea, and barren rock, Galoup and his men live the correct, rigid life of the Legionaire - spotless and well-creased unforms, demanding physical labor, and ritualized exercise and gymnastics. Except for those evenings when they cut loose at the local disco with their beautiful African girlfriends, they live in a hyper-masculine, male-only domain. But when Sentain's heroics lead to growing popularity with both his fellow Legionaires and the unit commander, Forestier (Michel Subor), a resentful Galoup embarks on a course of action that leads to his own destruction. The final scenes of him in a disco - alone, isolated, and spinning out of control - are unforgettable.
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Comment 25 of 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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This film caught me by surprise, I found it in my local video store (in Hereford, UK). As it was one of very few foreign legion films on the market I had to watch it. I spent 2 and half years where the film was filmed (Djibouti), some of the actors were genuine legionnaires, I recongized the names and faces, to this end, it was warming to see a fictional pictorial account of the Legion, and it brought back some harsh memories. The plot is hardly exciting, and at times the 'tia chi yoga in the desert is rather farcical, however, the image of true legionnaires doing the assault courses, the conditions they live in and the desert are highly accurate, to this end I found in refreshing in that although not an action packed drama, not a documentary, but an combination of the two, and not a ridiculouos Claude Van Damme stand up comedy. I would recommend this if only for its realisic content parts. I would also highy recommend 'The Naked Soldier' by Tony sloane, a fantastically true account of the French Foreign legion, unlike no other.
Comment 26 of 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Just had to throw in my 5 stars as this is one of my favorite films ever, and some of the poor reviews here do not do the film justice. Claire Denis is a wonderfully observant and subtle filmmaker of both land/nature and human emotions. The plot is loosely based on Billy Budd, but especially noteworthy is Agnes Varda's stark beautiful cinematography and Denis Lavant's amazing performance. The final disco sequence is breathtaking, truly one of the best 'performance' sequences ever, and oddly in tune with other acrobatic feats Lavant has displayed in other films (Lovers on the Bridge and Mauvais Sang)
1 Comment 14 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I guess a film (book, artwork...) that creates such a divergence in opinion is one that is worth checking out.

Not a truly difficult story to follow, as was suggested by a few other reviewers. Certainly stark, but it's only like an hour and twenty minutes, not tedious by any stretch of imagination.

I saw this as something of a continuation of the saga Bruno Forestiere that started with Godard's "Le Petit Soldat".

Anyway, no use getting into too much film theory for this movie. It's as beautifully shot as any movie, the ending was about the most intense (though bizarre) few minutes of a movie I can remember seeing.

This isn't "three star" (whatever that means) review.
Comment 11 of 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Director Claire Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL is not an easy film to categorize. Based in part on Herman Melville's novel, "Billy Budd" - and containing musical passages from Benjamin Britten's 1951 opera of the same name - the movie is arguably more effective in creating a mood than it is in telling the story of a French Foreign Legion officer's obsession with a young recruit. And yet, depending on the viewer's individual tastes, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Unquestionably, all the elements assembled here are magnificent: the cinematography is stunning; the actors are perfectly cast; their performances are beautifully choreographed; the music is intriguing; and the editing is intriguing without being obtrusive. It is as if Denis had purposely decided to draw upon aspects of a variety of artistic disciplines - including opera, the ballet, modern dance, painting, photography, pantomime and acrobatics - in committing her vision to film. The result is a deliberately paced film that will appeal more to audiences who allow themselves to be swept in the style in which the simple story is told, rather than those who enjoy their plots to be laid out in linear fashion and embellished with unambiguous action.

BEAU TRAVAIL is heartily recommended to patient viewers who are willing to let its unique style stimulate their imaginations and emotions; film students, too, should take a look. Others may find it downright frustrating, even incomprehensible.
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