With her ravishingly sensual take on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, Claire Denis firmly established herself as one of the great visual poets of our time. Amid the azure waters and sunbaked desert landscapes of Djibouti, a French Foreign Legion sergeant (Denis Lavant) sows the seeds of his own ruin as his obsession with a striking young recruit (Grégoire Colin) plays out to the thunderous, operatic strains of Benjamin Britten. Denis and cinematographer Agnès Godard fold military and masculine codes of honour, colonialism’s legacy, destructive jealousy and repressed desire into shimmering, hypnotic images that ultimately explode in one of the most startling and unforgettable endings in all of modern cinema.
Why You Should See This Film
Beau Travail came in at #7 in the 2022 Sight & Sound poll, up from #78 in 2012. This made us incredibly happy, as it’s one of our all-time favourites, too. A film of both great beauty and intellectual rigour, it’s one of the most fascinating studies of masculinity ever caught on film. It’s worth the price of admission for Denis Lavant’s intensely physical, supremely committed performance alone.
- Year: 1999
- Rating: M
- Director: Claire Denis
- Cast: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin
- Duration: 92 minutes
- Language: Russian, Italian, French