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Prior to 2022, no films by women directors cracked the top ten in Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films Ever Made poll. This time, there were two: Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Claire Denis’s Beau Travail (which came #7). Ironically, perhaps, Beau Travail (literally, Nice Work) is a film about men, male bodies, male psyches. That said, this very evidently a film from “the female gaze”, and after all, the commission from which Denis worked was to explore “foreigness”.

Inspired by Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, it is set in East Africa, Djbouti, where Claire Denis grew up. Sgt Galoup (Denis Lavant) reflects back on his time in the French Foreign Legion, and in particular the impact of the handsome Sentain (Gregoire Colin) on the other soldiers, and on the commanding officer (Michael Subor). It is intrinsically a film about homosexual attraction, but no more explicitly than Melville’s novella. Physical and abstract, sensual and distant, the film climaxes with one of the most memed dance sequences in cinema (rightly so), but the entire movie is a kind of militarized ballet of bodies in rest and motion (the score includes Benjamin Britten, Neil Young, and Corona’s disco anthem Rhythm of the Night).

Sunday’s screening in our PANTHEON series will feature free refreshments and a short introduction by Dr. Sarah Shamash, media artist and educator, Emily Carr University of Art + Design.


Claire Denis


Denis Lavant, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor

Country of Origin





In French, Italian, and Russian with English subtitles

93 min

Book Tickets

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Patrick Grandperret


Claire Denis


Agnès Godard


Nelly Quettier

Original Music

Benjamin Britten, Charles Henri de Pierrefeu

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This program highlights two landmarks in feminist film: Maya Deren's surrealist short Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and Vera Chytilova's subversive new wave farce, Daisies (1966), perhaps the most radical, confrontational film of the era.

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The consummate director of the silent era, Murnau was schooled in German Expressionism and embraced the fluidity and dynamism of the moving camera. Invited to Hollywood he prefigured film noir with this tale of a married villager seduced by a city vamp.

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Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray's first film opened eyes in the West. It's a naturalistic portrait of the childhood of a Brahman child, Apu, growing up in a village far from twentieth century technology in West Bengal.

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The Night of the Hunter

One of the strangest and most beguiling movies you'll ever see, from a poetic, nightmarish novel by Davis Grubb, a fable about two children fleeing from a psychotic evangelical preacher (Robert Mitchum). Charles Laughton's only film as director.

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The Battle of Algiers

French Colonel Mathieu hunts for Algerian resistance leader Ali la Pointe in Pontecorvo's classic, which draws the battle lines between colonialists and Arab insurrectionists in a pulsating, "fly-on-the-wall" documentary style.

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Jacques Tati was modernity's clown; technology his banana skin. Here his alter-ego Monsieur Hulot navigates a sterile Paris that seems designed to thwart his every wish.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre