Kinoeye | French film: Claire Denis' Beau travail ()
In this detailed look at how Claire Denis' Beau travail (Good Work, ) the film's protagonist and narrator, is also involved in a steady relationship with Rahel . That is, only by the end of the film do we get to understand that Galoup has. mind, there's no more magical contemporary filmmaker than Claire Denis, Much of Beau Travail is dedicated to the daily exercise and training regimen of It's impossible not to draw a connection between Denis' film and the work of story was going to end while still giving the character a well-earned. Only as an adult did Claire Denis realize that she hadn't been afraid of the .. In the end, after having accepted certain things, I escaped him and ran . who saw “ Beau Travail” years ago, on the recommendation of his father.
Some things happened with my production at that time - they didn't want to make a deal with them because there was no way to be sure about music rights in Cameroon and everything. So it was very frustrating, but I kept in touch with them as I was editing Chocolat, and they wrote me a letter and told me they were coming to France for a tour, their first tour outside of Cameroon. So I managed to find a camera and some film stock and there we were. I didn't foresee my career.
They seemed very comfortable with the camera. It was very much a film about talk as much as it is about music. You seem to like listening to them talking as much as showing them on stage. Yeah, because they were, they wanted to speak. They were so amazed to be in France to be doing that tour in very bad conditions, eating autoroute pizzas.
The way the tour was organised, they had nothing to see but highways and freeways and cheap motels. So, I don't know, I think they wanted to speak and we managed to be there all the time, so I don't even remember asking questions.
It was like a conversation and we were smoking together and drinking together. We were speaking football all the time actually. You also made a documentary portrait of Jacques Rivette, quite a long, two-part portrait. Do you find as much pleasure in documentary as fiction?
Jacques Rivette has seen the documentary about the musicians and he asked for that portrait. He did the first film of the collection, doing the portrait of Jean Renoir to whom he was an assistant and said "Claire was my assistant, so she should do the film about me.
I was terrified and I did it. It seems really to have happened by chance. I don't know, in a way I like it. I always have projects that are documentaries or fiction movies, but there is always a moment where some strange coincidence happens. With Beau Travail, I was proposed a movie about being a foreigner - I had other projects and I kind of think to accept a proposition, it sometimes makes me uneasy because I prepare my work, I decide I'm going to do this and that and I try to be organised in the way I write scripts.
But I think a proposal - or coincidence or chance - makes for better choices. I think that for me it may be a better way to, I don't know, even to be afraid - you know, not to prepare so well. But do you like that chance when you're shooting as well because in some of the films there is a feel of documentary, a feel of real events happening and I'm thinking of S'en Fout la Mort where we see real cock fighting.
Yeah, but S'en Fout la Mort was rehearsed. We did rehearse a lot. But we rehearsed, I was telling Denis Lavant this morning on the train and Michel Subor, that we always rehearsed other scenes, never the real script. We rehearsed the very opposite from what we are going to shoot so that we are together in a kind of womb.
We want to work together, but the script is not completely unveiled. I hate to rehearse a scene, because then I am not interested in shooting the scene or then I have to change it. It has to be completely new the day we shoot. Something that I have not prepared, something that really makes every one of us ready for what we have not prepared.
S'en Fout la Mort is a really tough film about a very tough world. How did you discover that underworld of cock fighting? I was in the Caribbean islands and I was invited to see a cock fight. The person who invited me was a trainer - so I became interested in the way they trained. I was also interested in the very strong relationship each man could have with the rooster, although the bird could handle at the maximum two or three fights.
Normally it's only one fight. So they train those birds for two or three months, they cost a lot of money and after one fight, maybe they are dead. They say to the tourists, it's because there's a lot of unemployment and it's a good way to make a little money. But if you're travelling in those islands, you see that the relationship is a very deep relationship that has nothing to do, well it has something to do with money, but in a very symbolic way.
I think the cock fight was considered - like the slaves were not authorised to fight because if they fight they might injure themselves and therefore would not be able to work in the fields in the morning. So the cock fight was also a symbol of their own violence.
I could feel that, but I was not sure, but I thought I felt that and we started to write the script on vague feelings. Alex Descas was trained for two months and when I saw the way his relationship with the birds developed, I knew that we were ready to try to make a movie. I was not sure it was going to be a movie. I wanted to try.
It was weird, because we did not have much money but we had to import fifty roosters to be trained and the trainer and his assistant. We were all staying in a small hotel outside Paris near the food market and the clients in the morning would hear 50 roosters in a bedroom, you know.
Dancing Reveals So Much: An Interview with Claire Denis • Senses of Cinema
The film couldn't be distributed here - it was shown in festivals, but what were the reactions in France. Were people shocked by it?
I don't know what were the reactions - but it's weird because years after years, people keep speaking about the movie as if it became important to a lot of people of the Caribbean community in France. So other people, I don't know - it's a dark film, but it was certainly not rejected. What we thus witness in Beau travail is not straightforward storytelling, but the development and transformation of bodily attitudes in both Sentain and, even more interestingly, in Galoup. Sentain's open, spontaneous, slightly cocky, but basically unself-conscious body becomes, through the pressure of Galoup's judgemental eye, a withdrawn, hesitant and self-doubting body.
Galoup's regimented and productive gestures—his sheltered and repressed military body—give way in the end to a body of jouissance, maddeningly sterile, blissfully dissipated. Following the same bodily turn, Galoup the remorseful, quiet and rusty-muscled narrator becomes Galoup the crazy dancer whose body seems capable of breaking free from its own frame.
In this scene, Galoup pulls a gun out of a drawer and lies on his bed. He places the gun right on his stomach.
Dancing Reveals So Much: An Interview with Claire Denis
The camera then gives us a close-up look at the sentence tattooed on the left side of his chest: An extreme close-up of his left bicep shows the rhythmical beating of his pulse. Amid an otherwise static and silent shot, the film thereby draws deliberate attention to the pulsing of Galoup's vein.
Rational thoughts or intimations of suicide thus collide with a life-beat that stands outside control and ratiocination.
The opening lyrics of a song "this is the rhythm of my life" begin to be heard over this most literal image of life itself, both emphasising the literalness of the pulsating vein and bridging one scene into the next. Situated between the lingering stasis that paralyses Galoup's body and the incipient moments of his dance, this brief but affectively intense shot fuses a kind of death drive with a most primitive and persistent vitality, thereby confounding such a fundamental binary as life and death.
Accordingly, the dance that ensues is neither an inscription of life as the opposite of deathnor an inscription of death as the opposite of life.
It is, rather, a moment of jouissance dislocated from any intelligible series of causes and effects, intentions and results.
One might borrow Antonin Artaud's words regarding the power of the brain to "turn towards the invisible" and "to resume a resurrection from death" [ 13 ] by way of explaining the way the film's brain locks into this vital pulse to effect a resurrection from the death of rational linearity—the scripted ending of suicide that would logically follow.
And yet, the space no longer serves the same narrative purpose, nor is it filled with the same crowd. Deleuze identifies the indeterminacy of location in modern cinema—achieved in the proliferation of the "any-space-whatever"—with the ability of space to change co-ordinates suddenly and without apparent justification. In these instances, space may be said to change faces, to disguise itself under an array of masks or cloaks that render it as seductive as it is unfathomable.
Instead, it can be described as a hesitant pattern of fits and starts, and of abrupt, deliberate stops. Such kinetic fragmentation is nonetheless consistent with Galoup's character, which wavers between a militarised and rigid control of the body and the final, seemingly unaccountable, release of affect.
The most striking contrast between stasis and movement occurs right after the first final credits roll. We see Lavant standing in pretty much the same position a legionnaire might stand in military formation—head and shoulders erect, gaze unfocused yet frontally aimed, arms and hands close to the sides of the body in a relaxed posture.
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After some twelve seconds in this position, Lavant suddenly propels his body upwards and to his left side, reaching the full height of his body in the air and then landing unscathed and with ease in a recumbent position, only to lift his body immediately up again and continue with his acrobatic demonstrations.
The reason why Denis placed the scene at the end may be instructive in this respect. In an interview with Sight and Sound, she explains: But when I was editing I put the dance at the end because I wanted to give the sense that Galoup could escape himself.
From this angle, the decision stands out of discernible time and space because the possibility lies within him all along. To place it thus at the film's conclusion only responds to the film's, and Denis', own desire to uphold Galoup's escape as an immanent possibility. Denis Lavant plays Galoup, a tough, grizzled sergeant-major, pitifully unsuited for civilian life. It is from here, among the bars and pavements of Marseilles, that he narrates his part of the story - to where, we learn, he has been exiled from the Legion in disgrace.
For back in the Legion, in Africa, Galoup has had a boyish loyalty to his commanding officer Bruno Michel Subora loyalty which has elements of a girlish crush. Bruno himself is a greying, enigmatic figure, a man whose loyalties are to the Legion alone, but submitting to no very obvious further demands of patriotism or national duty, and who is on the verge of going native, with a taste for the narcotic languor of chewing the local khat leaves.
Frequently, and emphatically, Bruno distinguishes Sentain with praise for his manliness, resourcefulness and courage. And in the insupportable heat, Galoup goes out of his head with jealousy. Claire Denis's film is a mesmeric, masculine ballet whose beauty and confident power, manifested in lugubrious scenes which suspend the normal rules of narrative procedure, simply go beyond conventional ideas of transgression or homoeroticism.