Considered to be Claire Denis’ masterpiece, Beau Travail is a mesmerising exploration of male identity in crisis, brought to life through the female lens of Denis, cinematographer Agnès Godard, and editor Nelly Quettier.
In a remote coastal outpost in the former French colony of Djibouti, Foreign Legion Commander Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) is admired by his men. Less popular is his prickly, solitary second-in-command Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant), who trains the troops rigorously in the blazing heat. The arrival of Sentain, a good-natured new recruit, awakens a burning rage in Galoup, who begins to plot the young man’s downfall.
Denis’ screenplay is loosely based on Herman Melville’s 1888 novella Billy Budd, which also inspired Benjamin Britten’s 1951 opera of the same name. In a film of few words, Beau Travail’s bold imagery, rhythms and soundtrack – featuring excerpts from Britten’s Budd – convey the ways in which belonging, desire and violence trouble contemporary masculinity.
The screening on Wednesday 13 November will be followed by short responses from film editor Liza Ryan Carter (Of Time and the City; Tony Benn: Will and Testament) and Susie Godsil, Fellow of the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
In recognition of the emphasis on women editors in this Retrospective strand of Leeds International Film Festival, the focus will be on the function and impact of editing both as a cinematic technique and as a psychoanalytic understanding of unconscious mental processes. These responses, together with the shared experience of this powerfully evocative film, will be taken up in a discussion with the audience.
Directed by Claire Denis | France, 1999
1 hour 32min | French, Italian & Russian with subtitles
Screened in 35mm
A Psychoanalysis and Film event as part of Leeds International Film Festival in partnership with Opera North, the Institute of Psychoanalysis, the Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust and Leeds Beckett University.