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Archive for June 6th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      We live at a time when athletic prowess abounds. Remarkable physical health races all about us, to our amazement. Such a state of affairs has been remarkably investigated by filmmaker, Claire Denis, in her film, Beau Travail [Good Work; Nice Going] (1999).

Here, however, we find neither specimens of professional athletes, nor amateur devotees of the limber and the inexhaustible. Instead, we find—in the very small-market presence of Djibouti, once known as French Somaliland, during the decade (the 90’s) when tempers were unsporting—a unit of the French Foreign Legion busting their butts in training for quelling hostilities. Whereas the contemporary athletes and devotees, mentioned above, stood a chance to live, at some level, that topspin of frisson at the heart of human swiftness, the folks we get to know here seem frozen in such an interminable training routine which they present as nearly cloistral agents of squelching mundane squabbling, heavily, thereby, invested in a form of pedantry. They go so far as to, once in a while, a sort of th’i chi slow dance, fighting strategy with hands converging in the style of prayer to a fussy (pedantic) divinity. Way too much brain, and not nearly enough bravery.

How does athleticism—acrobatics—sour like that? Look no farther than Ingmar Bergman’s, Fanny and Alexander (1982), the compass, as it happens, of Denis’ odd war story which does so much more than enforce the status quo, while, paradoxically being (as with, Fanny and Alexander) a revelation of massive devotion to crushing, not merely the Horn of Africa, but everything in sight that might have real depth, which is to say, a purchase upon “the big world.” (more…)

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