Quick-Thoughts: Claire Denis’s Beau Travail (1999)

“But it’s impossible to fight just for an ideal. An ideal that keeps changing.”

Separating his servant from his master impresses danger to come. It evokes jealousy, it evokes power shifts, it evokes reconstruction of the design. Our rhythm with nature, our peace found in consistent order becomes poisoned by human insecurity, the intellectual freedom yet betrayal of harmony that the mortal mind burdens us with. In this world, where labor is as satisfying enough to be merely centimeters before your vice, you only hold onto so very few values, allowing for their desire to be all too concentrative. 

Denis has stated before that she made this piece on the account of being challenged by offerers to make a film that embodies the foreign experience. In her reinterpretation of Herman Melville’s unfinished novel, foreigners often become obliged to daily the process of new land to fit in with, again, that rhythm, the root of this stemming from fear of inward expression and comfort in outward acceptance. This duality speaks on behalf of Denis’s unique female perspective of masculinity: a trait that can be both a beautiful choreography of companionship and a hopeless path of perpetual shallowness, where no events matter in the end — whether they were devised out of integrity, sexual confusion, or a meld of the two; Denis’s ambiguity stings — because there’s nobody here who can objectively express them, as if they never happened to begin with, just like the existence of inanimate nature itself though; that is why it can either be seen as good or bad, maybe both.

Beau Travail is easily Claire Denis’s best shot and soundtracked film I’ve experienced from her catalog thus far, mesmerizing and sensual from frame to frame, with the most feverish ending sequence ever, purposely speed up to the point by our lead character as a celebration of finally letting ethics go.

Verdict: A+

All-Time Favorites, Claire Denis Ranked

“Beau Travail” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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