Beau Travail (Denis, 2000)

beautravail1There is no way this film should be this good. A retelling of Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd” set in the French Foreign Legion, directed by a woman born in France, and culminating with an electric break dance by the Claggart character (Denis Lavant as Galoup)? Are you kidding me? Nor should the film be this beautiful to look at. It’s set in the desert, for crying out loud.

But if you doubt that film is a visual medium, check out this film, where little is said but most everything is understood. I suppose it is inevitable, given the source material, that some people might or have dismissed this as strictly a gay film. That strikes me a little bit like saying that And The Band Played On is a medical mystery. I’ve always thought that the Melville novella was as much a meditation on chance and circumstances and the way they contextualize moral decisions as it was about repressed sexual orientation, but what do I know?

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