• James Rutherford

‘Beau Travail’: An Evocative Tale of Dark Passions Within the French Foreign Legion


Movie poster for the French film Beau Travail starring Denis Lavant and Grégoire Colin

“Beau Travail” (1999) is an evocative French drama starring Denis Lavant as Chief Adjutant Galoup, captain of a squadron of legionnaires within the French Foreign Legion. Stationed in the East African nation of Djibouti, Galoup leads his military sub-unit under the command of Commandant Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor), a man he greatly reveres. Yet a captivating new recruit named Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin) undermines Galoup’s capacity once he becomes entirely bewitched the newcomer’s charms. Delivered via flashback by an aged Galoup as he crafts his memoirs, the storyline recalls his time in Djibouti with great reverence as well frustration with the spell that young Sentain held over him. The handsome and charismatic Sentain is seen earning the admiration and fierce camaraderie of his fellow troops while Galoup simmers with a fierce envy that implies deep-seated homoerotic impulses. Ultimately Galoup's darkest inclinations drive him to a highly fateful decision that holds dramatic consequences for both of them thereafter. Directed by French luminary Claire Denis (“White Material”, “High Life”) and loosely based on Herman Melville’s novel “Billy Budd, Sailor”, “Beau Travail” is a sublime, brooding and visually magnificent creation, highlighted by absolutely stunning cinematography work from Agnès Godard. She captures the extraordinary beauty of the Djibouti landscape in an entirely unparalleled manner, elevating the film above transfixing human drama to the realm of uniquely transcendent international cinema.

 

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