Beau travail


Beau travail concludes with the frenzied dance of Galoup on the disco floor that we have seen, intermittently, throughout the film. The dance seems both regimented and wild at the same time. If, in the previous scene, we are led to believe that Galoup is about to commit suicide, this concluding dance suggests another way to imagine the male body. There is, after all, a connection between the last two scenes. The last image we see of Galoup’s body before the dance shows Galoup’s arm in close-up, a vein throbbing. In the final scene, the vitality, the pulsating energy, of that detail explodes. If the film suggests, however briefly, that there are ways to imagine the breakdown of the whore/Madonna stereotype in relationship to women, no such possibility exists in relationship to Galoup. His pulsating body, whether throbbing slightly in contemplation of suicide or performing frenetically on the dance floor, cannot escape the dualities of regimentation and desire, duty and passion. – Judith Mayne

LE BAL. Ettore SCOLA. 1983.

One cheesy dance-hall, no dialogue, some wonderful music equals great visual jokes, tragic observation about mankind and  the 50 year history of Europe in front of you. Different characters live through their dances from 1930s to the 1980s as the time passes by and politics, social behavior, and fashion change with each new epoch… For less than two hours we would go through the wars, peace, racial conflicts, student riots of 1968 while Ettore Scola’s camera never leaves the ballroom.  The film was nominated by the Academy for the Best Foreign Language movie award. It should’ve been nominated for the best Universal Language award – the language of music and film.

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Camille Saint-Saëns, “Danse Macabre – Symphonic Poem Op.40”

According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning. His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the E flat and A chords also known as a tritone or the “Devil’s chord”, and the solo violin’s E string is tuned a half step lower to create this effect played by a solo violinist, which represents death. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking and the skeletons returning to their graves.

The piece makes particular use of the xylophone to imitate the sounds of rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils movement of The Carnival of the Animals.

I’m always happy when the Wikipedia pages for certain pieces of music are well-written and informative, I end up with a whole other level of appreciation for it. The Danse Macabre is awesome enough on its own, but the extra little facts are really worth reading.

The clock strikes midnight, so you know what that means. Time for the dead to dance once more.