Beau Travail by Claire Denis


Beau Travail from Claire Denis

I usually keep my guards up with the French. Their intellectualism is inherently academic, specially post-new-wave. Anyone teaching at La FEMIS has some of that. And what this entails is usually less life, more language. Personally, my cinematic concerns are of the kind found within life; the risks, the compromises, the consensus-building, the passionate engagement into the work, woven into the film. This has some risk, but you can’t help but remain suspicious.

This is a filmmaker with supposedly Franco-African concerns. So she gets to shoot in the desert. There’s demonstration of some concern for the desert people, a non-narrative about soldiers stationned enduring training, and Lavant anchoring the whole thing with voiceover retelling a troop leader’s sentimental solitude. It goes: Malick meets the French, meets Godot (not Godard).

I guess someone borrowed too many things and they all clashed against each other. Amongst a few, the voiceover is from Carax by way of Malick. But that was predictable, it is impossible to cast Lavant and not reference Carax. “Camping Sauvage” a French b-movie I saw last year did so with more finesse (his limp was quoted for a final shootout scene). But here, I’m afraid, is plain stealing.

So I tried to look elsewhere. Malick always weaves two narrative layers: the one you believe the film is about, and another one that floats above, that is a world created, that hynoptizes you into it (the ethereal narrative). The same is attempted here. It looks pretty from some angles. But there is nothing to transport us. There is no bridge. Malick’s bridge is his voiceovers, his underlying narrative sense omnipresent. But some of this here is simple lingering.

So we have, no drama, failed narrative, semi-documenting of ethnocentric concern, and a new-wave sensibility; train wreck.

You can skip this. But the finale is another quote from Pont-Neuf. You must see Lavant in that if you have not already.

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Categories: Notes

2 replies »

  1. We definitely need to be on guard for pseudo-intellectual drivel of the sought just witnessed…not the film for that is a masterpiece…but the inane over-written drivel that passes as a ‘review’ above.

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