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BEAU TRAVAIL

Director: CLAIRE DENIS

93 minutes| France| 1999| Subtitled| Colour| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm


This reimagined version of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd represented a radical shift in Claire Denis’ work and remains one of the peaks of her career. Relocating the shipboard saga to a French Foreign Legion training camp in the East African enclave of Djibouti, this saw Denis raking back the dialogue in her storytelling to put the onus on a potent combination of physicality, movement, visual composition and music.

The result is no fey abstraction but a sinewy encapsulation of brutal passions being held in check by the rigours of military discipline – just get that ironing sequence! – as sergeant Denis Lavant seriously has it in for heroic innocent Gregoire Colin. Startling use of the score from Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd only adds to the build-up of tension, unleashed at last in a Dionysian coda which sets the seal on one of the unarguable celluloid masterpieces of the 1990s.

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