Saturday 22 December 2012

Beau Travail [1999]

Loosely adapted from Herman Melville’s Billy Bud, Claire Denis’ military drama Beau Travail is an intriguingly filmed tale on the age-old themes of jealousy, crime, punishment and redemption. Master Sergeant Galoup (Denis Levant) is the stern, implacable leader of a group of men in the French Foreign Legion, stationed in the middle of nowhere in Djibouti. He and his men lead a life of strict discipline, intense training, and unfailing routine, only to be given brief respites once in a while. Galoup, however, starts losing control over his well-set life upon the induction of Sentain (Michel Subor), a young, soft-spoken orphan in his outfit. Right from the outset he doesn’t take kindly to the presence of the young gun, and that changes to vindictiveness when he realizes that his Commanding Officer, who he hero worships, has started liking the young gun. Told in flashbacks, and narrated with compelling compulsiveness by the complexly drawn Galoup, the film was as much a look into the harsh regimentation of the Legion, as it was an exploration of repressed homoeroticism. Sumptuously photographed in saturated colours, the vistas of natural beauty and barrenness were spellbinding at times. The juxtaposition of the external with the internal was noticeably a vital motif for the director.Yet, for all its merits – most notably, a marvelous turn by Levant, the film was also deliberately artsy which I found distracting and even tad off-putting. The hyperstylized form often got into the way of the story, making this a classic example of overt preponderance of style over substance affecting the potential of a work.

Director: Claire Denis
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Military Drama
Language: French
Country: France

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"deliberately artsy"

How can you expect your criticism to be taken seriously when you write shallow things like this?