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September 7, 2009

4

Beau Travail

by Franz Patrick


Beau Travail (1999)
★ / ★★★★

This movie about French soldiers stationed in Djibouti left a big question mark in my head. At first I thought Claire Denis, the director, was trying to establish the characters via showing us the ennui of military life: from ironing clothes, making the perfect creases to the every day physical and mental training the soldiers had to endure. But half-way through the picture, nothing much changed and I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with it. I wanted to know more about what made the characters tick. Instead, by the end of the picture, I couldn’t tell them apart (especially since they all have the same haircuts but that’s beside the point), I didn’t know anything about their motivations, and I didn’t know anything about their lives outside of the military. In a nutshell, it felt very one-dimensional. That feeling of detachment made me not care and watching the film was like pulling teeth. I’ve read some summaries from other reviews and they somehow found a story that the film tried to tell. Upon reading those reviews, I really felt like I watched a completely different movie because none of those descriptions matched what I saw (which was pretty much half-naked guys runnning around all over the desert). Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy movies that are stripped down with minimal dialogue but they have to have sort of emotional resonance. I didn’t find that in this picture despite my best efforts to look underneath the surface. The only scene that I genuinely enjoyed was the last when Denis Lavant broke into a dance. It felt like a huge sigh of relief because the rest of the movie felt so controlled, cold and tough. If they had more scenes like that, this train-wreck would’ve been saved. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 9 2009

    I think you may have tried to find a character study in a film that didn’t really intend to have one in the first place.

    Reply
  2. Sep 9 2009

    That may be. However, everything else about it was weak across the board. This movie didn’t lack one thing, it lacked many. And the whole experience was painful.

    Reply
  3. Bill Hendricks
    Oct 2 2009

    You don’t understand art. Films don’t “have to have sort of emotional resonance.” Test your assumptions, you will find that they are baseless.

    Reply
  4. Oct 2 2009

    Thank you for your opinion, but this is my take on the movie. I would love to read your review if you have one. Perhaps I can learn something from your insight.

    Reply

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