Beau Travail

The English translation of Beau Travail is "good work." Apparently, a little more than something was lost in the translation. Beau Travail is Herman Melville's Billy Budd, updated to more recent times. This time, everything happens in the French Foreign Legion. The immediate image is one of adventure, honor, and action, but the film leaves a sense of boredom and exasperation. Galoup (Denis Lavant, Tuvalu, Melody for a Hustler) is a commanding officer jealous of Sentain (Gregoire Colin, The Dreamlife of Angels, Secret Defense).

The adaptation by Jean-Paul Fargeau (Nenette and Boni) and director Claire Denis (I Can't Sleep) efficiently uses sound to convey the story. There is little conversation, and narration by Lavant is also minimal. Silence is the norm, interrupted by extremely loud club music. Galoup's jealously is imperceptible at first, but grows with each day. Soon, it manifests itself as unfair treatment towards Sentain. And that sums up the entire movie. Galoup's inner emotions slowly boil to the surface, causing his resentment to rise until it hits irrational levels. The entire focus of Beau Travail is on Galoup, and Denis shows how these feelings cause the downfall of a good officer.

Beau Travail is foremost a visual movie, with a large amount of screentime devoted to the male physique. In Denis' Foreign Legion, men iron and exercise topless with short tight shorts. They do push-ups, swim, cook and run. Then, they hug, shower and do drills. The sun shines brightly on their hardened chests while they lounge around lazily. Surely, no army does this. Denis does not explore any of these homosexual undertones; instead, they just appear on screen like an extended fashion shoot for green clothes. The barren deserts take second chair to the men, which is unfortunate. Beau Travail contains most of what people think are stereotypical of bad French films, long monologues going nowhere, little action, and a bizarre ending.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, French with English Subtitles, Not Rated but contains mature themes, probably a PG-13.

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