Claire Denis is a brilliant stylist, and this film shows her style in fine form. The brilliant Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) stars. Do not dismiss this as another "gay film", it is a subtle and beautiful work that demands work from the viewer as well, as do most of Denis' films. I like that, I don't need everything explained to me 3 ways like they do in Hollywood.
Based on a Melville novel but Conradian in its storytelling, this mosaic of images, impresions and recollections of the growing boredom and animosity within a group of legionnaires conveys a quiet desperation that is perfectly achieved by the talented cast.
re-watched tonight, four years later. Words do not touch this film. In other words, there is nothing to say. Just breathe, experience. Hands down one of the best cinematic experiences ever. Maybe this sounds lazy, but this is one of the few times I've walked away from a film and there was simply no need to speak or describe. I am a ripe sponge, I am basking in a super juicy pleasure dome.
Claire Denis deserves her own adjective. How else to describe the tone of this film? You could call it dreamlike, except its style is too rooted in realism, just as it's far too dreamy to be realistic. Then it ends on a note that's completely tonally jarring yet inexplicably perfect. Some might say the camera's searching movement is like Malick if Malick were agnostic. And some might say that'd be an improvement.
i had always heard this film had some serious homoerotic subtext to it, and it was just before a scene where Denis Lavant looks out at the rest of his troop in the middle of a splash fight that i thought "well, i don't see what's so gay about this." fine film. a fine, gay film.
Denis poeticizes the potentially reductive. Through her lens, it is colonialism that seems tribal and primitive to watching natives, and sexual repression rather than inhibition that corrodes the mind. The hard flesh of soldiers becomes part of the landscape, eroding their humanity into yet more sand for the desert. Only when it's too late can one finally join in the dance. Play me off, Olga.
Beautiful and hypnotic, Claire Denis confirms her status as one of the most important working filmmakers anywhere in the world. Denis Lavant delivers another stellar performance and Agnes Godard's cinematography glued me to every frame. Beau Travail rivals anything Malick as produced in terms of poetic cinema.
I don't know if there is a filmmaker working today who has a better understanding of how powerful a juxtaposition of images in relation to one another can really be. Unfolding more like poetry than prose Denis never spells out which events are mundane and which are pivotal because everything is so unified and rhythmic. In short one of the finest marriages of form and content in recent years. Life changing.