At the beginning of her sixth feature film, the emaciated voices of a male choir sing the praise of the legendary Foreign Legion. Under the baton of Claire Denis, it is clear that this can only be a swan song, and that the next 90 minutes will reveal how profoundly empty the pathos in it is. One look at the hardened, disenchanted face of Sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant in an intense performance) is all it takes to know that the heroic courage, the colonial trappings, the proud bond between men touted in song can hardly be more than perfunctory assertions. Supported by Bernardo Montet’s choreography, Denis stages the Legion’s boot camp routines as hyper-masculine, free-wheeling dance theater. Try as he might, even Galoup cannot ignore its homoerotic aspects – notably, young recruit Sentain (Grégoire Colin) leaves cracks in his callous soldier’s soul. Confined within the rigid corset of military identi-ty formation, though, he cannot allow his desires to be sidetracked by this irritation. Disaster soon looms instead.
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Selected filmography Claire Denis
CHOCOLAT (1988), NÉNETTE ET BONI (1996), TROUBLE EVERY DAY (2001), THE INTRUDER (2004), 35 SHOTS OF RUM (2008), WHITE MATERIAL (2009), LES SALAUDS (2013)