Beau travail

(Good Work)

The visually spellbinding movie depicts [the French Foreign Legion’s] rigorous drills and rituals as ecstatic rites of purification and the embodiment of an impenetrable masculine mystique. . . . Not to be missed.

New York Times

Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin, Richard Courcet,

A story of French Legionnaires isolated in a blisteringly beautiful African setting (Djibouti and surrounds), Beau travail evokes Camus’s The Stranger as much as it does Melville’s Billy Budd, on which it is abstractly based. This is the Foreign Legion of the 1990s, superfluous to anything but its almost spiritual rituals of loyalty and rigor. The rigor plays out in dancelike exercises and in simple activities like the pressing of a uniform into elegant creases. But loyalty, as in Melville, is a complex of suppressed eroticism and violence, as Sgt. Galoup (Denis Lavant) indulges a paranoid, irrational hatred for a beautiful young recruit, Sentain (Grégoire Colin), who he imagines will kill the commanding officer, Forester (Michel Subor). In this film, Denis effectively hypnotizes us, transforming what is, after all, a detachment of unemployed boys who have fled France for a colonial netherworld—a dream long since awakened from—into a dance of beauty, passion, and sadness. Nice work, if you can get it.

Judy Bloch
  • Claire Denis
  • Jean-Pol Fargeau
Based On
  • inspired by the novella Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

  • Agnès Godard
  • French
  • with English subtitles
Print Info
  • Color
  • DCP
  • 93 mins
  • Janus Films