2 Best Movies to Watch by Denis Lavant

Staff & contributors

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adiatou Massudi, Bernardo Montet, Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Richard Courcet

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

With a script that seems to have been written for a medieval fantasy, but set in a present-day Ivorian jail, Night of the Kings immediately situates itself between the realms of reality and imagination. Whether or not one thinks that certain details about the prison's strange rituals have been lost in translation, the mysticism surrounding the events of the movie remains impossible to shake. The idea of improvising one's way out of trouble should make sense in any cultural context after all, and this is what keeps the film on edge—and what helps Night of the Kings work as such a singular vision from an often underrepresented region of world cinema.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Denis Lavant, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Issaka Sawadogo, Koné Bakary, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Simon Rieber, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Philippe Lacôte