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13 January 2018: Take Two: Beau Travail / Pola X


A double bill of sensuous, formally innovative, Herman Melville adaptations: Claire Denis' stunning tone-poem Beau travail and Leos Carax’ hysterical melodrama Pola X.

Beau Travail
Claire Denis
1998 | 90 min | Colour | 35mm

"Denis and her near-constant collaborator, screenwriter Jean-Pol Fargeau, reimagine Melville’s Billy Budd as a tale of jealousy and homoerotic desire amongst a company of French Legionnaires in remote Djibouti. The beautiful sparseness and enigmatic quality of Beau travail is informed by Denis’ interest in contemporary choreography and her careful attention to the legionnaires' training and exercise, rituals that suggest both the cohesion of and the unspoken tensions within the unit. In a film of few words the soldiers' sculptural bodies become expressive markers of the ways in which belonging, tenderness and violence trouble contemporary masculinity." – Harvard Film Archive

Pola X
Leos Carax
1999 | 134 min | Colour | 35mm

"The life of a wealthy young dilettante is upended when, on the way to visit his fiancée, he happens upon a mysterious young woman in a forest. Claiming to be his half-sister, she inspires him to forego his comfortable existence for la vie de bohème in Paris. Based on one of Herman Melville’s most mysterious books, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, this moody, doomy film is a meditation on the Janus-like nature of passion, which can heal or destroy. Fittingly, Carax here eschews the limpidity of his earlier films for something darker and murkier. Sexually explicit and at times a difficult film, Pola X excited some controversy upon its initial release, but today it can be seen as a brilliant turning point from the earlier films of love to Carax’s more recent work that celebrates the anarchic modes of creation and expression." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Leos Carax