Movie Review: Beau Travail (Legionnaires in African Sun)

Posted: September 18, 2008 in Inspiration, Marquesate, Movie Reviews, Reviews
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What a beautiful, beautiful film. The cinematography is absolutely stunning.

The film is in French without subtitles, so unless you understand French (which I don’t anymore) you are stuck with admiring the imagery – and the men. Oh yes, those, and you can almost feel the heat of the African sun on their smooth skin (and in case you think I have a one-track mind as a writer, I am an author of gay erotic fiction, after all. And military at that). The film is by acclaimed French director Claire Denis and in long stretches this film is filmed in silence, just watching those men.

As Salon.com writes in a review:

Her remarkable new film, “Beau Travail” (“Good Work”), is about the waves made by a newcomer in a society of outsiders who have created their own world. This loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd” is set among the French Foreign Legion in the East African outpost of Djibouti, a place as removed and self-contained as the ship in Melville’s story, the Bellipotent.

I don’t want to say too much about the film, for fear of spoilers, just that it has a strange, dreamlike quality at times, where you as the viewer, just like the director and cameraman, feel like an outsider, looking in. because we all look in when it comes to la Légion étrangère – unless we are in, and I doubt we’d be likely to read this, then.

However, the stance of the French Foreign legion towards homosexuality deserves its own chapter AKA post. It is an interesting (read: blatant/shameful/sad/bold/etc) way of ignoring and working against the actual French laws. But, as I said, another time and another post.

Here are three images from Beau Travail (for the purpose of review and critique).

Amazon.co.ukAmazon.comAmazon.fr

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Comments
  1. mllesatine says:

    I love this movie and its homoerotic subtext so much. And of course Grégoire Colin (Sentain) and Denis Lavant (who also played in “A very long engagement”).
    And I wanted to say that I own a copy of the movie with a German dubbing. I recorded it off Arte (German-French TV channel) and always hoped the dubbing would be included in a DVD release but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
    I really wish Beau Travail was more popular because it deserves lots of fanfic. *g*

  2. Marquesate says:

    It’s a real shame it doesn’t have any subtitles and I honestly don’t understand why. It makes no sense! And it thus is shut off to many people. I can’t get the subtleties either, and am reduced to the imagery and to trying to understand without really understanding.

    I didn’t like a very long engagement as much as I liked Amelie, I adore the latter.

    At this stage, I actually just wonder why no one is writing anything homoerotic about the French Foreign Legion. It’s just so weird, I mean, the possibilities are endless.

  3. mllesatine says:

    Did you buy the UK version of the movie? AmazonUK lists the movie with English subtitles. Or did you download the movie somewhere? I just checked google and you can download the subtitles from mutiple sources and integrate them into a downloaded version or just read the text file.

    I’ve been a fan of the Foreign League since I saw that movie, maybe even before that. I remember borrowing many books, pouring over the weapons they use, the history, the recruiting process, even the songs they sing. I might have even read something about homosexuality in one of the books.

    One of the most memorable moments was the marching in the desert when Neil Young’s “Safeway cart” is playing. Whenever I hear the song the images come back to me.

    There are some real gems in this movie. You remember the scene where Sentain is patrolling and meets Commandant Forestier in the darkness? Forestier asks him where he is from and Sentain says nowhere and that he doesn’t have parents and was found in a building as a baby. Forestier ponders this and then say: “Well, at least it was a nice find.” o_O

  4. Marquesate says:

    I got the film from a friend, from France, but that’s agood point, I should check on Amazon UK, to buy another version if that one does have subtitles. 🙂

    I love how in this film there is so much said in silence, and consequenly the emotions scream at you.

    I never knew what Forestier said, thanks for that! I definitely have to get the subtitled version.

  5. mllesatine says:

    I love how in this film there is so much said in silence, and consequenly the emotions scream at you.

    So true.

    I just ordered “9 Rota” after reading your recommendation and watching a trailer.

    Did you by any chance see “Generation Kill”? An HBO mini-series about the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It’s based on the book by Evan Wright.

  6. Marquesate says:

    Well, I just bought the Beau Travail UK version with subtitles. Long live Amazon 😉

    I think you’ll like 9 Rota. It is very well made, even though you must take its authenticity with a grain of salt.

    Haven’t seen Generation Kill, but I have a huge collection of war/military films and am always happy to add. I’ll probably be posting short reveiws once a week for a long time to come. Granted, I don’t write detailed reveiws, more an “did I like it or not” but I find if a review is too detailed it tells me too much and I want to avoid that. It’s a bit like “things Marquesate liked – or not – and thus if you like Marquesate’s writing you might like it too”

  7. mllesatine says:

    I’ve already bookmarked this site and finally added you at livejournal. And I’m looking forward to your movie reviews.

  8. […] boring. But don’t get me wrong, you should buy this film, just as much as you should buy Beau Travail (how could you not buy a film about legionnaires with gratuitous shots of perfect bodies? Huh? […]

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