A lot has been made of the homoeroticism of Top Gun, and other movies of its like. For some, the volleyball scene in Top Gun is the epitome of latent homoerotic tendency. But none of these films, not even Top Gun, have anything on the homoeroticism of Beau Travail, Claire Denis’ ode to the masculine form in all its glory. Homosexual feelings are pretty much the entire plot, though it is never outrightly stated. I honestly don’t think a male director could’ve gotten away with this film; that’s how sexually charged it is in the underworkings.
From the moment the story of the film starts, the moment Galoup first mentions the arrival of the new fellows to the Legion, mention is made of an “angry” and “menacing” feeling taking hold of him, and it is all but unapparent what this is supposed to mean. The film is so slick and sly with its secondary meanings and context that it conversely becomes on-the-nose about it; this film is a prime example of a viewing experience where we, as an audience, are so attuned to the use of subtext that subtext itself becomes, ironically, glaringly obvious to us. Therefore, much of the slow pacing and deliberate action of the film was somewhat lost on me; I already knew where the film was going with everything, so I became antsy and impatient whenever it took a while to get there, which was all of the time. Denis uses music and visual artistry to evoke a constant, ethereal mood to the film, which more than anything enables us to get through the whole thing, even if it’s only by wondering what certain shots and scenes mean, or for me, why they were even there to begin with.
I found a lot to be frustrated about with Beau Travail, but at the same time, I knew I couldn’t hold it against the film. It was more my personal preferences and just the film-watching mood I happened to be in that resulted in my frustrations; if I were in a more susceptible mindset for drawn-out subtext and a film that very rarely speaks out openly about what it is trying to say, I would probably have liked Beau Travail more. But again, it was more my fault than the film’s. I’m sure there will be plenty out there that will love the mood and style this film has to offer; I, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10