Thursday, May 06, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Best Director Winners (Oscars Edition)


For the 18th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the subject of the Oscars in the Best Director winners as they’re the ones who take charge of the film and make sure everything work. While not every winner have been great choices, there are those that do create great work. Here are my three picks as these are based on films that my father loved in the last years of his life as these winners were all Mexicans though my parents are Honduran:

1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-The Revenant
My dad is a big fan of Leonardo diCaprio as he just loves his intensity and willingness to go beyond his good looks. My dad really was happy Leo won the Oscar for this performance as he also was happy for Inarritu as he liked a few of his films but really liked this one. He loved how intense it was and the fact that Leo was going into places that was grimy and did so many things that no actor should be doing in those extreme conditions. It became one of his favorite films though his favorite performance from Leo is in one of the finals he had seen in Django Unchained.

2. Guillermo del Toro-The Shape of Water
My dad liked the period where the film is set while he was taken aback by some of the film’s violence though he had to remind himself that the film is by del Toro. Yet, it is a film that kind of reminds him of the monster movies of the past while he also liked the fact that there was a lot more practical effects used instead of computer effects as he admits to not be into computerized visual effects. He was also into the story and liked the fact that it had some realism in the story though my dad thinks Pan’s Labyrinth is the better film.

3. Alfonso Cuaron-Roma
The area in which the film was set was an area my dad lived in during his time in college as the film did bring back some memories. He watched it during the Oscar season on his laptop (which he rarely used except for work and sports) as he and my mom watched the film. My mom found it to be boring but my dad was into it as it brought him back to a period in time that he reminded him of his youth. Especially in the social struggles of the time as well as the fact that things in Mexico were chaotic but also had this liveliness that will never be recaptured. He thought the film should’ve won Best Picture instead of fuckin’ Green Book.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, May 03, 2021

The Rover (2014 film)


Directed by David Michod and screenplay by Michod from a story by Michod and Joel Edgerton, The Rover is the story of a loner living in futuristic world following a global economic collapse as he pursues a group of thieves who had stolen his car with the help of one of the thieves’ younger brother. The film is a western of sorts as it plays into a man seeking revenge for what had happened as he take in a young man who provides some ideas for this loner who felt the world has gone against him. Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Gillian Jones, and Susan Prior. The Rover is a gripping and evocative film from David Michod.

Set a decade after a global economic collapse similar to the Apocalypse, the film follows a loner who encounters a trio of thieves who stole his car as he goes after them with the help of the thieves’ younger brother who had been left for dead following a robbery. It’s a film that plays into a man who is driving through the Australian desert as he is just passing through as his world collapse when his car is stolen as he becomes hell-bent on getting it back as he takes this slow-witted young man with him despite being wounded and guilty by association. David Michod’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative while it also plays up into the ambiguity into why this man named Eric (Guy Pearce) wants his car back as he finds the wounded Reynolds (Robert Pattinson) to accompany him.

Yet, they journey into a world of lawlessness where American currency is worth more than Australian currency while the military is the police of sorts as everything is done with some secrecy where people hide from criminals or the military. For Eric, none of that matters as he’s already lost so much since the economic collapse as he just wants his car back while not giving a fuck who he has to kill. Even if he has to drag Reynolds into the fray though Reynolds prove to be more useful than Eric realizes as it plays into Eric’s own humanity which he seemed to have lost. Especially as Reynolds is just someone who is innocent but knows his way to get around the lawless environment to help Eric.

Michod’s direction definitely echoes aspects of the western as it is shot on various locations at the South Flinders Ranges in Australia as well as areas nearby the town of Maree. Michod plays this world where people live remotely or hide in their houses as if things are dangerous yet it begins with Eric stopping at a bar where there aren’t many people as there’s a shot of a truck tumbling following an accident with Eric on the foreground taking a sip while the truck is in the background tumbling. It plays into the lawless nature of the film where the three men steal Eric’s car as sees it from afar as he also notices the truck which he takes and goes after them in a chase but there is this air of psychology into how Eric tries to approach these men but it doesn’t go well prompting him to play into the world of lawlessness. It is in this moment where he finds the wounded Reynolds as he asks for his help but Reynolds is in need of medical care. Yet, having access to guns and health care isn’t easy as the former requires money while the latter requires secrecy as it’s something Eric has to cope with. Michod maintains some unique compositions including a lot of gorgeous wide and medium shots in not just capturing the scope of the locations but also in how unsettling it is in this post-apocalyptic setting. There are these intimate moments in Michod’s approach to the close-ups and medium shots in the way it develops Eric’s relationship with Reynolds as first it starts off with Eric treating Reynolds with indifference and only using him to get to his destination.

Yet, Reynolds is someone that isn’t treated with respect at first but his innocence in the things he talks about but also his survival instincts does make Eric care for him following a skirmish involving a few military officers whom Reynolds, his brother, and the other thieves were stealing from. It does play into something that would happen in the second as Michod doesn’t stray from the brutality of the violence as it adds to the eerie nature of the environment the characters are in. Notably as Eric has been de-sensitized by the world due to the fact that he is someone that is carrying his own demons as it does bring a lot of reason into why he wants his car back. The film’s climax is violent but it’s more about Eric helping Reynolds confront his brother as well as bring some order back to the world of lawlessness. Overall, Michod crafts a chilling yet mesmerizing film about a loner who accompanies a young man to confront a trio of thieves who stole his car.

Cinematographer Natasha Braier does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the daytime exterior scenes including some shots in the morning and in the evening as well as the usage of low-key colorful lights for some scenes at night. Editor Peter Sciberras does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the suspenseful moments in the film. Production designer Josephine Ford, with set decorator Jennifer Drake and art director Tuesday Stone, does amazing work with the look of the motels, houses, and places that Eric and Reynolds venture into in their dilapidated state as it adds to the dreary look of the film. Costume designer Cappi Ireland does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward and casual to play into the hot area of Australia.

Hair/makeup supervisor Fiona Rees-Jones does terrific work with the look of the characters to help play into the grimy look as well as usage of mist to play to their reaction with their hot surroundings. Special effects supervisor Angelo Sahin and visual effects supervisor Dave Morley do fantastic work with the some of the special effects such as the truck tumbling scene as well as some of the violent moments in the film. Sound designer Sam Petty does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations including some of the quieter moments as it adds to the film’s eerie tone. The film’s music by Antony Partos is incredible with its mixture of ambient and brooding electronic textures to play into the suspense while music supervisor Jemma Burns provides a soundtrack that adds to the film’s tone with music from Colin Stetson, Tortoise, the Ink Spots, Frances-Marie Uitti, and an offbeat track from Keri Hilson.

The casting by Kirsty McGregor is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Nash Edgerton as a soldier who confronts Eric, Samuel F. Lee as a gun-toting acrobat, Anthony Hayes as a brutal soldier, David Field and Tawanda Manyimo as two of the thieves who steal Eric’s car, Susan Prior as a reclusive doctor named Dorothy who also shelters lost dogs, Gillian Jones as an aging opium den owner known as Grandma, and Scoot McNairy in a terrific performance as Reynolds’ older brother Henry who leads the gang of thieves as he also abandons Reynolds.

Finally, there’s the duo of Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Reynolds and Eric. Pattinson brings this air of innocence as a young man wounded during a robbery and left for dead as he deals with what happened to him but is also someone that has some strong survival instincts despite his lack of social skills. Pearce has this air of chilling restraint as someone that just wants to drive through the desert only to have his car stolen as he’s a man willing to get it back by any means necessary. Pattinson and Pearce do have this amazing rapport as two men trying to reach their destination but also confront those that had wronged them as well as made them feel worthless in a lawless world.

The Rover is an incredible film from David Michod that features great performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Along with its gorgeous cinematography, eerie music score, unsettling tone, and its modern yet visceral approach to the western, the film is definitely a film that isn’t afraid to be grimy and violent while also playing into two men who feel rejected by this dark world only to stand up for some kind of principle that the world had lost. In the end, The Rover is a sensational film from David Michod.

David Michod Films: Animal Kingdom - (War Machine) – (The King (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, May 01, 2021

First Cow


Based on the novel The Half Life by Jonathan Raymond, First Cow is the story of a loner who befriends a Chinese immigrant as they hope to strike it rich in the Oregon territory as they borrow milk from a cow that belongs to a rich landowner. Directed and edited by Kelly Reichardt and screenplay by Reichardt and Raymond as it explores two different men who try to create a new life in the 19th Century in the Oregon territory as they also try to do something for themselves. Starring John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Ewen Bremner, Scott Shepherd, Gary Farmer, Lily Gladstone, Alia Shawkat, and Rene Auberjonois. First Cow is a rapturous and evocative film from Kelly Reichardt.

Set in 1820 in the Oregon territory, the film revolves around a baker who meets a Chinese immigrant as they become friends as they hope to become rich upon encountering a cow that belongs to a rich landowner from Britain. It is a film with a simple premise as it plays into two men trying to create better lives in a land that was in the early stages of being explored while a rich landowner arrives with a cow that he wants to have as he awaits for another cow to create a cattle farm. The film’s screenplay by Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt does follow a straightforward narrative though it opens with a small scene set nearly 200 years later where a young woman (Alia Shawkat) is walking her dog as she finds a shallow grave as it leads to the story of these two men in the cook/baker Otis “Cookie” Figowitz (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee) who befriend each other as they’re both outsiders in this expedition through the Oregon territory. The latter was hiding from the Russians after he killed one of them while the former is treated poorly by fur trappers as the two choose to work together and then meet this cow whom they would milk at night and make food to sell.

Reichardt’s direction is definitely ravishing in the simple compositions that she creates as she shoots the film on location in Oregon while presenting it in a 4:3 full-screen ratio format as it gives the film an intimate look. While there are some wide shots that Reichardt creates to get a look into the locations including the film’s opening sequence with the young woman walking her dog. Much of the film has Reichardt emphasizing on close-ups and medium shot to play into the intimacy while creating shots that do last long to get a sense of the location and what the characters are dealing with in their environment or in a certain situation. It adds to the dramatic suspense in some of the situations that include scenes of Cookie milking the cow while King-Lu is on a tree being a watchdog trying to see if anyone is going to show up. There is this suspense that emerges yet there is also peaceful in the way Cookie talks to this cow.

Also serving as the film’s editor where Reichardt aims for something straightforward in the editing, it adds to the way the film is paced where it is slow but only because time was slower then as it relates to how Cookie creates biscuit or how one walks to town from a house. It also play into this growing discomfort later in the film when the Chief Factor (Toby Jones) takes notice of Cookie and King-Lu’s small business as it leads to this meeting where the two are invited to his home as there is this tension emerging. Notably as it play into what Cookie and King-Lu are figuring out what to do next as they have these small ambitions to make a better life for themselves but there is that danger of being caught. Especially in what leads to that first scene of the woman with her dog finding this shallow grave as its ending is more about these two men contemplating their next move but also lost dreams they have for a new world for themselves. Overall, Reichardt crafts a mesmerizing and engaging film about a loner cook and a Chinese immigrant trying to start a new life with the help of a rich man’s cow in the early days of the Oregon territory.

Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting and low-key colors to help maintain a realistic look and tone for the film as well as providing vibrant yet dark colors for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Production designer Anthony Gasparro, with set decorator Vanessa Knoll and art director Lisa Ward, does amazing work with the look of King-Lu’s shack as well as a local pub and the home of the Chief Factor. Costume designer April Napier does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the period of the time with animal fur for some of the hunters as well as a refined suit that the Chief Factor wears.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Connolly does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal effects as it is mainly set-dressing for a few bits of the film. Sound designer Leslie Shatz does brilliant work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as maintaining a sparse tone for some of the quieter moments of the film. The film’s music by William Tyler is excellent for its low-key folk based score with its usage of string music including guitars and violins to maintain the film’s somber tone.

The casting by Gayle Keller is superb as it feature some notable small roles from indie musician Stephen Malkamus as a fiddler, Dylan Smith as a fur hunter who berates Cookie early in the film, Gary Farmer as a native guest of the Chief Factor in Totillicum, Lily Gladstone as the Chief Factor’s native wife, Scott Shepherd as a military captain working with the Chief Factor, Ewen Bremner as one of the Chief Factor’s security officers in Lloyd, Alia Shawkat as a woman with a dog who finds the shallow grave in the film’s lone 21st Century scene, and Rene Auberjonois in one of his final film performances as a trader with a raven as he takes a liking to what Cookie and King-Lu have created.

Toby Jones is excellent as the Chief Factor as a British landowner who brings a cow to the Oregon territory as he hopes to make money on the land as he is amazed by what Cookie and King-Lu have created unaware of the source of its creation. Finally, there’s the duo of John Magaro and Orion Lee in great performances in their respective roles as Otis “Cookie” Figowitz and King-Lu as two different men who are outsiders that choose to do things their way to make a new life for themselves with Magaro as a cook who knows what to though he’s a loner while Lee maintains a calm approach to King-Lu as a man that knows how to sell things but also with ideas as Magaro and Lee have an amazing rapport together in just being two men who become friends all because they didn’t want to play by anyone’s rules.

First Cow is a phenomenal film from Kelly Reichardt featuring incredible leading performances from John Magaro and Orion Lee. Along with its understated look and tone, a simple yet engaging story, rich sound design, and a somber music score by William Tyler. The film isn’t just this fascinating story of friendship and small ambition but also a story of two men trying to do things their way during a time where everyone had a role to play on a land that is being discovered. In the end, First Cow is a sensational film from Kelly Reichardt.

Kelly Reichardt Films: River of Grass - Old Joy - Wendy & Lucy - Meek's Cutoff - Night Moves (2013 film) - Certain Women - (Showing Up) - (The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt)

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, April 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: April 2021


Well, things are starting to get a bit normal again with more people going back to doing their thing although it still feels weird. Even though I got my first vaccination and will have my second on this coming Tuesday, I’m still trying to get myself back on track as I’m dealing with bits of insomnia and the need of just wanting to sleep. Things here in Atlanta are getting crazy including here in Smyrna where there was a shooting at Akers Mills nearby a restaurant all because of an argument at a parking lot and weeks earlier just around the corner a shooting in Cumberland Mall. Then about miles away at Buckhead at Lenox, a woman coming into her car is robbed as it’s become a regular thing as I haven’t been to Lenox Mall in nearly a year.

Fortunately, I am glad to just be at home and whenever Mateo and Adalina comes to the house. I have a good time as Mateo is two but full of energy and curiosity as he’s already starting to boss people around and such. Adalina is starting to notice me though she’s only more than a month old but seems to like me. That’s grounded me as I’m eager to get back to going to the movie theaters again while hopefully go to a Brave game as I hadn’t been to a game in a long time nor have I been to see an Atlanta United game as that’s something I hope to do as a way to pay tribute to my dad and show my nephew something he can be excited for.
In the month of April 2021, I saw a total of 20 films in 8 first-timers and 12 re-watches with four of those first-timers films/TV series directed by women as part of the 52 films by women pledge. One of those films proved to be the highlight of the month in my Blind Spot Series choice in Beau Travail. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for April 2021:

1. The End of the Tour
2. Night Moves
3. First Cow
4. Zack Snyder's Justice League
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I Watched:

While this documentary from HBO that features a new interview Tina Turner shot a few years before this film’s release doesn’t really tell audiences anything new about the Queen of Rock N’ Roll. However, it is still a fascinating and compelling documentary that chronicles Turner’s time from being part of the Ike and Tina Revue with her abusive ex-husband Ike Turner to her illustrious solo career that has her being a megastar during the 1980s. While the film does feature some insight from the people who were with her including a few archival audio and interviews from Turner including her deceased ex-husband. It only scratches the surface as it should be noted that Turner did a lot more in the 1990s and beyond though the film was made so that Turner can tell her story for the final time as it’s a story she’s pretty much tired of telling at this point.

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil (last 2 episodes)
The four-part YouTube documentary special about Demi Lovato has the singer in the second half of the series not only talk about her struggle with recovery but also her return to the music scene. The film does showcase a woman who admits to be full of contradictions as she still likes to drink and smoke weed but there are also people including Sir Elton John who tells her that drinking and smoking in moderation doesn’t work at all. Still, the documentary does show Lovato trying to get herself back on track and clean up but also use her music to help her find herself again.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (episodes 3-6)
Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige has once again delivered with this series as the subsequent episodes as it features not just career-defining performances for both Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in their respective works but also some amazing supporting work with its ensemble cast. Notably the appearances from Carl Lumbly as Isiah Bradley as his appearances as a super soldier that history chooses to neglect is heart-wrenching as director Kari Skogland and showrunner Malcolm Spellman create a show that does get people talking about racism, history, identity, globalization, and what it means to use power for the right reasons. The fifth episode is definitely the best one in the series where it wasn’t just about Sam Wilson wrestling with what to do with the shield but also in the role that he realizes he needs to play. Not just for himself but for the world as what chooses to do in the season finale is proof of why Steve Rogers chose him to be the next Captain America. While the season finale was a bit of a messy narrative with some major reveals that are a bit baffling as well as the motivations of Karli Morgenthau in the end. It does manage to at least provide a fitting end for many as well as make a big announcement for what is next which is going to be a fourth Captain America movie.
The show is a success not just because of its mixture of action, adventure, comedy, and drama but in also wanting to discuss major themes. Emily Van Camp and Wyatt Russell in their respective roles as Sharon Carter and John Walker are solid as is Erin Kellyman as Morgenthau. Yet, the real star of the supporting cast is Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo where he’s just a villain that you just help but love. He’s charming, he’s got swag, and who knew he could dance. Plus, he’s humble enough to know when he’s out knowing he will fight another day. Bruhl and Lumbly both deserve some accolades yet the big cameo reveal in the fifth episode is the most unexpected casting ever. The casting directors for this show need to get a raise because how in the hell they got this person to appear not just the show but for the entire MCU. This is godlike casting and I love it.

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. The Godfather
2. The Godfather Part II
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1
4. Manny & Lo
5. Rudy
6. Lethal Weapon 2
7. Hellboy
8. The Fast and the Furious
9. The Bronze
10. Wanderlust
Well, that is all for April. Next month, I will finally re-start work on my Auteurs piece on Kelly Reichardt as well as watch many films in my never-ending DVR list. Notably the A24 and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet as well as my Blind Spot choice as I now have access to almost every film in my Blind Spot series for the year. Before I leave, I want to express my condolences towards the family and friends of a few major individuals who passed away recently in actress Helen McCrory, songwriter Jim Steinman, Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, and the rapper DMX as this is proof that some of the greats are leaving but they will be remembered for the joys they have given us. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: TV Scores/Theme Songs


For the 17th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the world of television in the TV scores and theme songs as it help makes a show with some songs being memorable with some not so much. Here are my three picks:

1. Married… with Children

If anyone here doesn’t think this is one of the best TV shows ever made. I will fucking destroy you. Honestly, I love this fucking show and who better to lead the show off than the Chairman of the Board in Frank Sinatra and the song Love and Marriage as it plays into the despair in the life of a lady shoe salesman in Al Bundy who is married to a lazy wife who wears tacky clothes and does nothing but watch Oprah and the home shopping network and takes all of his money with two kids who hates his guts as well as a neighbor with chicken legs who was married to a yuppie who later leaves her realizing the yuppie life sucks and then be replaced by an aging pretty-boy who joins Al in all sorts of shenanigans.

2. The Sopranos

The greatest TV show ever made. Featuring a theme song by Alabama 3 in Woke Up This Morning, it is a theme that plays into the dangerous life that Tony Soprano and his family live in as Tony is a mob boss from Jersey that is also dealing with issues of his own. He would talk about it through a therapist while also coping with his home life, his criminal life, and the people around him. Ran for six seasons yet it always delivered and remains one of the most beloved shows ever.

3. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

If there’s one composer in film and television that has been delivering solid work as of late and is taking the next step into being a great. It’s Henry Jackman as he’s been consistent in the music he’s created as his work for this TV show is unique as it does borrow his own work in the 2 Captain America films he had scored yet he infuses it with blues and soul for some of the themes he created. Notably the Louisiana Hero theme as it plays into the identity of Sam Wilson who is known as the Falcon yet would take on a much bigger identity. Jackman’s score definitely brings a lot of thrills as well as knowing when to set a mood as it is a reason for the show’s success.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Psychological Thrillers


For the 16th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of psychological thrillers. Films that play into the world of suspense as it delves into character studies as well as understanding about what is going on in their head. Here are my three picks:

1. Les Diaboliques
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s adaptation of an obscure novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac is definitely a suspense thriller that play into the idea of terror where a woman and her husband’s mistress conspire to kill that woman’s husband as things go wrong when the body suddenly disappears. It is this eerie film that has a woman dealing with the cruelty of her husband as she’s trying to run a children’s school while also having a heart condition that just adds to the chaos. It is an inventive film that has so many twists and turns as it showcases what a psychological thriller should be.

2. Manhunter
Though audiences are probably more familiar with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Dr. Hannibal Lector, what some probably don’t know is that Brian Cox did it first in Michael Mann’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel five years earlier which would be adapted in 2002 by Brett Ratner with Hopkins as Dr. Lector. Yet, this is the definitive version of the story as it plays into a man troubled by his encounter with Dr. Lector to the point that he goes to him for help in trying to find a serial killer. It is a thriller that is more about trying to find the clues and the killer itself as it’s told with such richness by Mann.

3. Cache`
Michael Haneke’s surveillance film revolves around a TV host and his publisher wife who receive mysterious video tapes as they learned they’re being filmed for some strange reason. It plays into a man’s hidden past as a boy and the actions he probably had unknowingly caused as it adds to this intrigue as the mystery peels slowly yet it each piece that is revealed just showcases a lot of revelations. It is a film that does demand re-watches yet it does get rewarding as it allows the audience to think more and more that includes its ending which remains one of the best twists in film.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, April 19, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Beau Travail


Based on the novella Billy Budd by Herman Melville, Beau Travail (Good Work) is the story of a French Foreign Legion officer who becomes obsessed with a new recruit at a post in Djibouti. Directed by Claire Denis and screenplay by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau, the film is a study of obsession and code of honor in the military in a world where men deal with their surroundings as an officer becomes troubled by this new recruit. Starring Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, and Michel Subor. Beau Travail is a ravishing and evocative film from Claire Denis.

Set in the country of Djibouti, the film revolves around a group of French Foreign Legion soldiers as they welcome a new recruit who catches the eye of its one of its officer who is troubled by this man’s presence as he does what he can to stop him. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more of a character study as it’s told mainly by one of its protagonists in Adjudant-Chef Galoup (Denis Lavant) who is overseeing a group of young soldiers as he trains them and watches over them at night whenever they go into town and have some fun. It’s part of a routine that Galoup likes to maintain as he also spends his alone time writing a memoir or to see a local woman in Rahel (Marta Tafesse Kassa) he spends time with every now and then. Upon the arrival of Giles Sentain (Gregoire Colin), Galoup is upset in Sentain getting the attention of Galoup’s commander in Commandant Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) who is fascinated by Sentain and his background but Galoup feels like something about Sentain is off as he’s also troubled by Sentain’s beauty and how well he was able to fit in with Galoup’s troops as it adds to the turmoil within Galoup.

Claire Denis’ direction is filled with intoxicating imagery as she creates some unique compositions in the surroundings as it is shot on location Dijbouti. The usage of wide and medium shots add to not just the scope of the locations in the country including its deserts and mountains but also the areas in the city as it play into this post-colonial world where all of these soldiers from different parts of the world are trying to be part of an elite group of soldiers. Yet, Denis does give the film some perspective from the locals as they see the Foreign Legion either with some disdain or curiosity as they’re seen training and doing these intense physical obstacles. Most notably these moments of exercising that is choreographed by Bernardo Monet to the music of Benjamin Britten’s opera for the Melville novella of the same name. There are some close-ups that Denis creates as it plays more into the sense of physicality in the training as well as some of the homoerotic tension that occurs in the way Galoup sees his commander towards Sentain as he is this object of beauty that is unlike anything.

Denis also play up to the tension by not showing anything that is typical of films that demand some kind of physicality in intense fight scenes. There’s only bits of it as it’s more of a study of wit but also repressed desire as it play into Galoup’s own issues as much of the film is told in a reflective narrative with scenes of him in Paris. It adds to this dream-like narrative where Denis also employ a lot of long shots where the camera gazes into a simple game of chess or a scene where Galoup is dealing with Sentain as if they want to fight. The film’s climax relates to what Galoup does to Sentain and its aftermath as it plays into this act of repression as well as this penultimate scene that has Galoup in Paris as it plays into something ambiguous about his identity and his actions that lead to his own downfall. Overall, Denis crafts a riveting and hypnotic film about a French Foreign Legion officer’s troubled obsession towards a new recruit.

Cinematographer Agnes Godard does phenomenal work with the film’s naturalistic yet mesmerizing cinematography as she shoots everything with natural lighting for many of the scenes in the day as well as using available lighting for the scenes set at night including the nightclubs. Editor Nelly Quettier does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts for the exercise scenes. Production designer Arnaud de Moleron does brilliant work with the look of the fort that the Legion lives in as well as some of the places in the city that they go to. Costume designer Judy Shewsbury does fantastic work with the costumes from the uniforms, underwear, and such that the Legion wears to the colorful clothing of the locals.

Sound editor Christophe Winding does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as a major sound effect for a key scene in the film as well as the atmosphere of a club. The film’s music by Eran Tzur and Charles Henri de Pierrefu is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that is mainly driven by strings as it doesn’t go for bombast in favor of ambiance while the music soundtrack that include Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd as well as music from Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Franky Vincent, Corona, Tarkan, Oliver N’Goma, and Abayazid Ali Dahablii.

The casting by Nicolas Lubin is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Richard Courcet and Nicolas Duvauchelle as a couple of Legionnaire soldiers and Marta Tafesse Kassa as a local woman that Galoup sees every once in a while. Michel Subor is incredible as Commandant Bruno Forestier as a wearing commander who lives outside of the fort as he is someone that had seen a lot yet becomes fascinated towards Sentain. Gregoire Colin is remarkable as Gilles Sentain as a new recruit who joins the Foreign Legion as he is this object of beauty that manages to be someone kind-hearted and does what he can to help out everyone yet is troubled by Galoup’s presence. Finally, there’s Denis Lavant in a phenomenal performance as Adjudant-Chef Galoup as a Foreign Legion officer who runs a section as he devotes his life to the Legion and to his commanding officer as he becomes unhinged by Sentain’s presence as it plays into repressed homosexuality and desire to the point that he does what he can to break Sentain in any way as it is this quiet and reserved performance from Lavant.

Beau Travail is a tremendous film from Claire Denis that features great performances from Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, and Michel Subor. Along with its riveting music soundtrack, ravishing visuals, gorgeous location settings, and its themes of identity and devotion. It is a film that explores a lifestyle and a man being threatened by the presence of someone new to maintain his flawed ideals. In the end, Beau Travail is an outstanding film from Claire Denis.

Claire Denis Films: (Chocolat) – (No Fear, No Die) – (Jacques Rivette, le veilleur) – (Keep It for Yourself) – (I Can’t Sleep) – (Nenette and Boni) – (Trouble Every Day) – (Vendredi soir) – (The Intruder (2004 film)) – (35 Shots of Rum) – (White Material) – (Bastards) – (Let the Sunshine In) – (High Life) – (Fire (2022 film))

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