Blu-Ray Review: Beau Travail

During the past couple of years, a strange thing has happened to Claire Denis. The renowned director of such brilliant films as 35 Shots of Rum, Bastards and White Materials has always been popular and feted on festival circuits, but she now appears to have become the fairy godmother of European arthouse cinema. Whilst a new film of hers is always greeted with great expectations, one of her best remains Beau Travail; which she released back in 1999.

Galoup (Denis Lavant), a former sergeant in the French Foreign Legion, is writing his memoirs at his home in Marseilles. The veteran was stationed in Djibouti during his service. The Frenchman admired his commander (Michel Subor) and was jealous about the love he was afforded by his men. When Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin), a handsome, charismatic and physically impressive young officer, joins his section, Galoup is jealous. This jealousy soon turns into obsession as he makes it his life’s goal to destroy him.

Beau Travail is a work of beautiful rigour and routine. The heat of the East African nation is brought to life through the almost lyrical cinematography of Agnès Godard. The strained masculinity and homoerotic tension are captured through a number of training sequences; sweat almost dripping off the screen. Denis loosely riffs on Melville’s novella, Billy Budd, Sailor, to create an astonishingly muscular tale of repressed homosexuality and troubled fixation. Beau Travail is a film which you can’t help but admire.

Special edition features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Agnès Godard and approved by director Claire Denis, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation between Denis and filmmaker Barry Jenkins
  • New selected-scene commentary with Godard
  • New interviews with actors Denis Lavant and Grégoire Colin
  • New video essay by film scholar Judith Mayne
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Girish Shambu  

Beau Travail is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection on 28 September.

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