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Low Culture Podcast: Beau Travail

In this month's subscriber podcast John Doran and Luke Turner discuss Claire Denis' 1999 masterpiece Beau Travail

It’s a tapsaff special for this month’s Low Culture Podcast, and (quite obviously) that’s got nothing to do with the weather at the moment. Instead, it’s all about John’s forthcoming chest tattoo of Hull’s Three Ships mural, and Claire Denis’ 1999 masterpiece Beau Travail, which features a unit of the French Foreign Legion sweating, shirtless in the sun. John and Luke praise the acting and physical theatre skills of Denis Lavant, who plays former French Foreign Legion Adjudant-Chef Galoup, the character who narrates the film’s plot from his new civilian life in Marseille. Beau Travail is one of the most beautiful portrayals of masculinity, and especially military masculinity, we’ve ever seen, with scenes on an assault course, army exercises and fighting approaching the balletic. In the French Foreign Legion, the act of ironing is as core a part of being a man as getting sweaty and bumping into one another grunting, and tQ’s editors talk about how the best ‘war’ films are those which explore the strange routine and boredom of being part of the military machine. They discuss Beau Travail as a post-colonial artwork and ask whether the homoeroticism makes it a queer film, or if this is in fact a misreading of the intensity and intimacy of relationships within an isolated all-male environment? Claire Denis was in part inspired in the aesthetics of the film by a “specialist” male nightclub in Paris that had a Foreign Legion fetish – could a straight man have made the film, and where does it sit  in terms of objectifying and fetishizing the male body? Finally, they discuss Beau Travail’s final scene, arguably one of the most beautiful and moving in contemporary cinema history. Will John and Luke be back next month or will the prospect of hanging around nearly nude with a load of fit lads have inspired them to take their oaths to France with the Foreign Legion? Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité! Thanks to all our subscribers for funding our podcasts and wider editorial, and to our editor Alannah Chance for putting this together. If you’re not yet a subscriber you can sign up now with a whopping great discount on our top Subscriber Plus tier via the link on the paywall below. Subscribers can now listen to this podcast on the site past the paywall, as well as through their podcast feeds.

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