BTL #10: Beau Travail// HOME, Manchester

Thursday 23rd May 2019 at 8:40pm – Get Tickets

dir. Claire Denis / Year: 1999 / Runtime: 92 minutes / Certificate: 15 / Format: 35mm / Price: £5.00 – £9.00 / Tickets

To mark the release of Claire Denis’ High Life (an extreme art-house sci-fi starring Robert Pattison that’s been gathering ecstatic reviews), we’ve lined up a 20th anniversary, 35mm screening of her most acclaimed film: Beau Travail.

Loosely based on Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd, Beau Travail stars Leos Carax regular Denis Lavant as a disgraced French Foreign Legion sergeant-major who recalls his time in the desert of Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. Denis lingers on skin and salt, capturing the strange codes and rituals of the Legion, as the arrival of an enigmatic new recruit (Grégoire Colin) sparks intense feelings of resentment and jealousy in his superior.

Claire Denis is widely hailed as one of the most distinctive and challenging voices in contemporary cinema. Known for prioritising texture, body and movement, her work is often concerned with key themes of colonialism and masculinity.  Here she engages with both, contrasting scenes of the legionnaires engaged in punishing training – which the director (along with regular cinematographer Agnès Godard) films sensuously, almost as ballet – with their excursions to local towns and nightclubs. Beau Travail is also notable for containing one of the all-time great final shots; a rhapsodic grace note set to Corona’s club classic “Rhythm of the Night”.

If you’d like to read more about Claire Denis and Beau Travail, then head on over to our blog, where Ellen Smith explores the film.

This screening forms part of HOME’s year-long initiative Celebrating Women in Global Cinema.