Masterful, beautifully shot elegy for the warrior ethos
By a customer
, 15 Sep 2004
_Beau travail_ gives proof that French cinema can still produce masterpieces. This adaptation of Melville focuses on Vere rather than Billy and on a ritualistic masculine life that has lost its function and degenerated into sterile rivalry. It shows the subtle triumph of the female principle in this harsh environment without ever striking a discordant ideological note. The cinematography displaying the men against the desert is breathtaking, and the rhythm of the narrative sequences builds tension with a brilliant economy of means. Even the French is beautifully written. The best French film I've seen in years (and I've seen quite a few).
one of those rare movies that makes you feel like a renewed person as you walk out of the theatre, the thumping of the techno beat of the closing credits music---'this is the rhythm of the night...' as you are left with the unforgettable image of Denis Lavant dancing crazily, alone on the dance floor. Where do I begin? Denis Lavant is such a captivating presence on film, especially when he moves his body rhythmically such as when he runs down a Paris street against a grey, red, black, and white background in Mauvais Sang, another great film. And what a dancer! Insanely beautiful. Lavant is a signifier unto himself. I see this film as a delicate, tender turning-inside-out of masculinity. Much of the outer hardness of maleness, especially in the context of the military, is taken away by Claire Denis and in its place are shots of defenseless looking shorn heads, tender flesh, petty vanities, domestic tasks done outdoors and of course the gracefulness of the men themselves as they exercise for no real purpose but for the elegant and correct execution of the exercise itself. The legionnaires appear to be acrobats, martial artists, ballet dancers, and lovers in the sparse and dramatic images Denis gives us against the deserts of Africa, a place which I find best suits her talents as a director. In other words, I find her film Chocolat much better than something like J'ai pas sommeil for example, a Paris film. What more can I say but I think it's a brilliant film and that I imagined Claire Denis, a petite French woman directing an ensemble cast of beautiful, young, naked men and thought that that was even more brilliant!
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