14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing but Slow,
This review is from: Beau Travail [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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.