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Beau Travail [DVD]

Denis Lavant , Michel Subor , Claire Denis    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: £4.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor
  • Directors: Claire Denis
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: French
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Artificial Eye
  • DVD Release Date: 25 Feb 2013
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005EZ8BXO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,952 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



One of the very finest French films released in 2000, Claire Denis' resetting of Billy Budd among modern-day French Foreign Legionnaires welds near-experimental formal minimalism with a savage exposure of male aggression, jealousy and repressed homosexual desire, all set in an eye-peeling desert setting and choreographed to the grunts of men at work. Ravaged-featured Denis Lavant plays Galoup, who narrates his story in flashback, perhaps at the moment before his life ends. A sergeant in charge of a troop of Legionnaires, Galoup's position as the favourite of the Commander (Michel Subor) is threatened by the arrival of pretty-boy Sentain (Grégoire Colin, who played the spoiled wastrel in The Dream Life of Angels). Galloup plots to discredit his rival. As the drama unfolds through indirection and Galloup's unreliable disclosures, Denis dwells lovingly on the ballet of men at work as the soldiers run through their obstacle courses, practice combat pas de deux and disport like lean, khaki-clad dolphins by the Mediterranean shore. Sort of like Full Metal Jacket meets early Derek Jarman. It's a sensuous and exquisite film, as perceptive about relationships between men as it is about those between colonisers and the colonised. --Leslie Felperin

Product Description

Inspired by Herman Melville's 'Billy Budd', filmmaker Claire Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL is a stunning combination of literature, music and dance that explores the near-mythical world of the French Foreign Legion. Dennis Lavant stars as Galoup, a sergeant-major whose position and power are threatened when the bravery and heroism of new recruit Sentain (Gregoire Colin) attracts the attention of the platoon's commandant (Michel Subor). Enraged, Galoup plots Sentain's downfall, a doomed course of action that leads to his own undoing.

Director Denis creates a dark mounting tension that underlies the exquisite cinematography of Agnes Godard, whose stark visual style contrasts vividly with the graceful training rituals of the sculpted young soldiers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangers in a Strange Land 12 Aug 2010
After recently watching Clair Denis's fine film "Chocolat", set in French Cameroon, which gave a vivid description of what it means to be a foreigner in an alien land, I decided to watch another of her films "Beau Travail". This film could almost be seen as a companion piece in the way that it follows such a similar theme. Clair Denis was raised in French Colonial Africa, so she has first hand experience of what it is to be a foreigner. She also happens to be an extremely gifted filmmaker, and is able tell more in 90 minutes than some directors are able to in a lifetime of trying. "Beau Travail" might easily be labelled by some as just more arthouse nonsense, but it rewards the patient and thoughtful viewer with great riches.

The film is based very loosely on Herman Melville's unfinished novella "Billy Budd", and actually uses music from Benjamin Bitten's opera of the same name. It also uses music by the greatly talented Neil Young, and some evocative African sounds. In this version Foreign Legionnaires replace the seamen of the original story. The wonderful, craggy faced Denis Lavant plays Sergeant Galoup, who becomes jealous when a new recruit Sentain gains the popularity of his peers and Galoup's senior Officer Bruno Forestier, played by Michel Subor, in a nod to his role of the same name in Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Petit Soldat". The young Gregoire Colin, in the Billy Budd role, plays Sentain. The legionnaires are based in the remote legion outpost of Djibouti on the horn of Africa, where the film was very impressively shot. Under the hot sun, envy begins to grow into hate in the heart of Galoup, leading to an act that will change his life and others forever.

First and foremost this is a film of tremendous visual beauty that few films are able to match.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stretches the mind - stimulates the eye 12 April 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I didn't know what to make of this film. I couldn't get to grips with it in the beginning as I'm used to a clear constructive narrative - being lead by the hand I suppose. This film doesn't do that. It uses all the French film techniques we are so used to and uses them well. There is in fact hardly any dialogue - just a voiceover of the main protagonist. I was about 80% through the film before the pieces started to fall into place. Then it made sense.
The scenery is spectacular and the score perfect for the location. It is a wonderful exploration of a man's heart - his unvoiced feelings of jealousy for a man he loves and admires (his Legion superior) but perhaps does not know how to deal with or understand. He feels he is being usurped by a `newby' - and he may be right. It is not a comfortable film but it is very absorbing. Well worth watching.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but Slow 3 Mar 2004
By Westley
Beau Travail is a modern-day update of Billy Budd, although the plot is much changed and the characters more ambiguous. Directed by French director Claire Denis (best known for 1988's "Chocolat"), Beau Travail stars Denis Lavant as a Foreign Legion officer in Africa. Lavant is the perfect officer, but he finds himself largely ignored by his commandant (Michel Subor), whom he greatly admires. His jealousy is piqued when he sees his commandant drawn to a new recruit, Sentain (played by Grégoire Colin).
The movie has some simple and beautiful scenery of barren Africa; accordingly it won several awards for its cinematography, including a Cesar (the equivalent of the French Oscar). The tone of the film is mesmerizingly aloof, with little dialogue and character development (most are nameless and credited simply as "legionnaire"). However, the movie is glacier paced, relying on repeated imagery and stark narration. There are also far too many scenes in which the camera lingers on the legionnaires training or ironing their clothes. Despite the languid pace, the movie is rarely boring, as it manages to maintain a sense of intrigue. In addition, the ending is amusingly peculiar and bewildering.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Haunting Film 8 May 2005
By A Customer
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Wonderful film - based on Melville's Billy Budd as a story. Set in the desert with the French Foreign Legion - the story is real Billy Budd - commanding officer and junior and denial. Beautiful scenery, and great characterisation. Great music as well - both Britten excerpts and also great dance music in the nightclubs. It's my wife's favourite film.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Tale 11 Jan 2013
By London
Wonderful film - based on Melville's Billy Budd as a story. Set in the desert with the French Foreign Legion - the story is real Billy Budd - commanding officer and junior and denial. Beautiful scenery, and great characterisation. Great music as well - both Britten excerpts and also great dance music in the nightclubs. It's my wife's favourite film.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elegant but Insubstantial 11 Nov 2003
Introspective and subtle, Claire Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL offers a modern retelling of Herman Melville's BILLY BUDD, transposing the tale of an officer who self-destructs through his jealousy of a new recruit to an outpost of the French Foreign Legion. And although the film is elegant in both its simplicity and purity, I myself found it a shade too simple and pure to be completely effective.
Still, BEAU TRAVAIL has two things going for it: director Denis' cinematic eye and superior performances throughout. One truly senses the location in all its elemental nature, and the cinematography is remarkable for its restrained elegance. The cast follows suit, with direct and underplayed performances that fold seamlessly into both Denis' atmosphere and the story itself, and the result is often quite stylish.
But for all its elegance and style, I found BEAU TRAVAIL too introspective and subtle for its own good; to me it lacks any significant substance, with both story and characters slipping through my attention as easily as sand slips through my hand. While this is doubtlessly part of director Denis' intent, and while I have admired many a film with a notably elusive touch, my ultimate reaction to BEAU TRAVAIL is that it is a rather superficial exercise in style over substance, and I cannot say that it leads me to interest in the director's other work.
The DVD transfer is reasonable, if not entirely first rate, and there are few bonuses of any kind. In passing, I also note that BEAU TRAVAIL is often marketed as a film with homoerotic context and imagery, but I personally did not find it so. Final word: worth a look, but not greatly memorable for all that.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow, Original And (Increasingly) Powerful
This 1999 film co-written and directed by Claire Denis is an original, slow moving, but mostly engrossing, account of masculine rivalry and jealousy occurring within the ranks of... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Keith M
1.0 out of 5 stars A real nothing movie
Apparently this is a gay movie? I am still wondering where or how? Nothing really happens in this movie, it is a slow movie about nothing really. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rn Oliver
5.0 out of 5 stars The most beautiful and stunning film I've ever seen
This film is breathtaking, poetic, and beautiful. The cinematography is just so superb, as is the acting. Read more
Published 20 months ago by L. Astbury
1.0 out of 5 stars not the best tale or the legion
As a fan of the yester-year books by P C WREN, i have long had an interest in the Foreign Legion. This DVD WAS SO POOR IT BECAME A FARCE OF LITTLE INTEREST! Read more
Published on 20 May 2012 by JACQUE
1.0 out of 5 stars just awfull ! ! ! ! !
I don't know if the previous reviewers were watching the same movie , but this movie was painfully bad ...slow ,tedious and so typically french ... Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by Colin Powis
3.0 out of 5 stars Cosi Cosi
I neither loved nor hated this film. It was beautifully shot and quite an interesting look at the unknown (at least to me) world of the foreign legion. Read more
Published on 4 July 2011 by Harry18
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well thought out and beautiful movie, a must see!
...Beautifully directed and very well acted. Clare Denis does it again, but this time, better! If you enjoy good scenery in a movie then you have to see this one just for that... Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2000
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