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Beau Travail

35 customer reviews

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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.

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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Special Features


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 (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JDTD
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,886 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Beau Travail" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "zapasnik" 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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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By shane on April 22, 2005
Format: DVD
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.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Beth G. on September 20, 2004
Format: DVD
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)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jenny J.J.I. VINE VOICE on May 9, 2007
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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