|Genre: Drama, Military, Experimental, Psychodrama, Surreal|
Plot: In loosely adapting Herman Melville's BILLY BUDD, Claire Denis has constructed a dreamy, detached visual poem that is at once somber and gorgeous. Denis transfers the tale's original location from the sea to the sparse landscape of East Africa's Djibouti. The film is narrated by Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant), a French Foreign Legion officer who is intimidated by the arrival of Sentain (Gregoire Colin). Galoup becomes jealous when his commander, Forestier (Michel Subor), begins showing the new recruit extreme favoritism, and after Sentain bravely aids in the rescue of a downed aircraft, Forestier bestows upon him a glowing commendation. Galoup, overcome with jealousy, recklessly acts out on his irrational emotion, with near tragic results.
Denis boldly composes BEAU TRAVAIL like a silent film, including several extended scenes of the soldiers training in a rhythmic, choreographed manner. Agnes Godard's hypnotic cinematography captures the beauty of the soldier's tanned bodies and photographs the landscape with a rhythm that is both haunting and poetic. In what may be one of cinema's most electric final shots, Denis gives Galoup a last chance at redemption, after his recent descent into jealousy and cruelty. It provides an invigorating conclusion to the film and proves that
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