This week in Film — BEAU TRAVAIL and MULAN

One’s a masterpiece, the other, not so much. Let’s kick things off on the good foot:

Released at the tail end of the last century, Beau travail was filmmaker Claire Denis’ fifth film: the one that launched her onto the world stage and established her as one of the key cinematic voices of this century.
The emphasis on chronology isn’t arbitrary: Beau travail (French for “good work”) is a loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s unfinished novella, Billy Budd — written in the 19th century, published in the 20th — and a spiritual sequel of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film, Le petit soldat. At the end of that film, Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) flees the French-Algerian war and the world of double agents. Forty years later, Bruno (still played by Subor) resurfaces as a French Foreign Legion Commandant stationed in Djibouti in Beau travail.

Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 3, “Home viewing: Beau travail

And now, the long-awaited, much delayed release of Disney’s live-action Mulan:

You’ll find no talking dragon in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan — directed by Niki Caro and starring Yifei Liu as the infantry soldier in disguise. Gone, too, are the songs: No Christina Aguilera singing about reflections, and no Donny Osmond promising to make a man out of you — he’s been replaced by Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, who is too old to be Mulan’s love interest, and out goes the romance subplot. The filmmakers don’t seem to know what to do with Yen. Nor do they know what to do with Jet Li as the Emperor, a grand warrior who hasn’t lost his edge. It seems preposterous that anyone as lame as Böri Kahn (Jason Scott Lee) could hold an ass-kicking Jet Li hostage.
That’s more or less what this Mulan is: A lot of humorless action with no songs that doesn’t quite add up. And if you thought dropping the music would save some run time, you’d be wrong. While the animated movie came in at 89 minutes, this Mulan tacks on another 20, adds a subplot of Xian Lang (Gong Li), a shape-shifting witch who aligns herself with Böri Kahn while simultaneously tempting Mulan — an echo of Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora and Maleficent’s relationship that is cast off as soon as it’s introduced.

A foggy reflection