Beau Travail

A beautifully-shot, homoerotic and poetic film about the relationships that Denis Lavant’s French Foreign Legion officer has with both his older superior and a younger underling while serving in Djibouti, with reflections from and brief glimpses of unfocused, unfulfilled post-military life. There are mesmerising scenes in which the Legionnaires exercise and train together; director Claire Denis makes them look like dancers in the searing Djibouti heat, before showing them actually dancing with local women in nightclubs. In fact Denis uses dancing in clubs to show us the gradual mental breakdown of her main character, which culminates in a magnificent and mysterious final scene in which Lavant’s oft-recognised physical capabilities as an actor are on display. The narrative flows back and forth through time in an almost effortless fashion. Beau Travail is stylish and beguiling. (****½)