Film Fatales #118: Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999). My third Claire Denis film, after 35 Shots of Rum and White Material, and the third I've found quite impressive. Once again, she isn't worried about clarifying events. It's a character study, where the heat of Djibouti is a character of its own. It's said she drew on Melville's Billy Budd, and I can see that ... if nothing else, it's clear which character in Beau Travail is the Billy Budd stand-in. I was reminded a bit of Full Metal Jacket, in the way the men in the French Foreign Legion do mind-numbing physical tasks to prepare them for a war. One difference between the two films (besides the part where Beau Travail is far superior) is that Denis never takes us to the actual war, the way Kubrick does in the second half of his film. The absence of any actual fighting makes the endless preparations of the Legionnaires almost abstract. Because Denis doesn't force a narrative down our throats, the eventual fate of the main characters seems a bit abrupt. But overall, the film carries a power that belies the seemingly calm surface. The buried homoerotic subtext in itself is overwhelming at times. #115 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time, and #93 on the recently released TSPDT poll of its users.
Geezer Cinema: Awake (Mark Raso, 2021). Never call a movie "Awake" unless you are sure you will give audiences plenty to keep them from getting sleepy. Awake has an intriguing, if silly, premise: everyone on Earth is unable to fall asleep (I've already forgotten the "explanation" for this), except for a couple of people, one of which is a young girl played by Ariana Greenblatt, who was young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War. This is not a big-name cast. Gina Rodriguez stars, Jennifer Jason Leigh is only in a couple of scenes and she is mostly wasted, and there are a handful of "that guys" like Barry Pepper, Gil Bellows, and Shamier Anderson. Oh, and Frances Fisher, whose part is barely larger than Leigh's. It's not much of a movie. In fairness, I didn't fall asleep while watching it. But then, I had some caffeine before it started.[Letterboxd lists for Film Fatales and Geezer Cinema]