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Directed by Claire Denis

France 1999 92 mins. In French

This psychosexual take on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd isn’t just the best film Claire Denis has crafted to date, it’s also one of the finest pieces of cinema to have come out of the final decade of the 20th century. Denis and her longtime cinematographer Agnès Godard fix their camera on a group of French Legionnaires as they train endlessly, and without clear goals in sight, in the African desert. In this mostly wordless film, an unshakeable tension emerges between a career Legionnaire and a young recruit, threatening the safety of one and the livelihood of the other. Beau Travail is a supremely visual work that subverts the cinematic male gaze while expressing both the mundanity and tyranny at the heart of masculine ritual. “At its close, Beau Travail is still inviting us to guess – to feel rather than learn the rhythms of its storytelling. It’s this audacious looseness, this elegant unfixability, that keeps Denis’ ‘beautiful work’ so fresh – and asserts it as one of the cinema’s most compelling and original meditations on the need for, and simultaneous resistance to, intimacy.” – Hannah McGill, BFI