dir Claire Denis
scr Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
with Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, Michel Subor, Richard Courcet, Nicolas Cuvauchelle, Adiatou Massudi, Mickael Ravovski, Dan Herzberh, Guiseppe Molino, Gianfranco Poddighe, Marc Veh, Thong Duy Nguyen
Review by Rich Cline
There are really only three characters here, surrounded by the fit young men of the Foreign Legion stationed in the coastal wastelands of Djibouti. Galoup (Lavant) is obsessed with pleasing his superior officer Forestier (Subor) until the arrival of the handsome, heroic, respected young recruit Sentain (Colin). Threatened, paranoid, jealous and no doubt lustful, Galoup plots Sentain's downfall as the soldiers repair roads and run through military training exercises along the stark African coastline.
The film basically consists of endless shots of the shirtless men doing what looks like thai chi in the desert. But there's actually a lot going on under the surface--and other sequences that give little glimpses of life. At times it feels almost painfully minimalist with its lack of clear characters or storyline, but as it grows on us we're slowly, subtly drawn into the central conflict. The performances are equally minimalist, and better for it. And Denis makes marvellous use of colour and texture in Agnes Godard's poetic cinematography, along with a wonderfully evocative song score. Yes, it's a bit like watching a painting for 90 minutes, but the imagery and themes linger meaningfully long after you've left the cinema.
[15--violence, themes, very brief nudity] 11.Jul.00
US release 31.Mar.00; UK release 14.Jul.00
"Unbelieveable piece. It was fantastic--my best film at Sundance this year. Very original in style. Great actors. Wonderful camerawork. Just a real film experience. Slow, thougtful, building an incrediable tension." --Bobbie L, St Louis.
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