Mar 21 - Mar 22
(Claire Denis, France, 1999, 35mm, 92 min)
Beau Travail is an all-male military hothouse under an unrelenting desert sun, where soldiers are in a constant state of preparedness, which includes freshly laundered and properly pressed uniforms.
This is the French Foreign Legion: men only, alone together; no women are permitted to join. Officers are French citizens; enlisted men are of any nationality and are mostly political refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants looking for a way out or a way in. All enlist under pseudoynms. French citizenship is the reward for grueling service.
In Beau Travail there is no war or declared enemy, only preparation for potential deployment. There are punishing rituals of authority, physical fitness, honor, readiness, and endurance under the cruel eye of the commander. Repressed emotions and homoerotic desire lead to murderous jealousy, along with lots and lots of ironing: the creases are very important in Beau Travail. Discipline and compliance with standards of personal appearance, judged by the commander, are essential to the corps d’esprit and military effectiveness, as well as personal and professional order and maintenance. The sun wilts the creases, the passions are unleashed, and the order unravels.