Originally posted on The Iris (August 6, 2016)
It’s been said that being at sea tests the limits of friendship and one’s own character. Add a touch of boredom mixed with an abundance of male-ego and you have yourself a manhood-measuring-contest that walks the thin line of manners, morality, and absolute absurdity. Chevalier is a funny and insightful exposé of the masculinity and vulnerability of Greek men, spectacularly captured by Athina Rachel Tsangari, director of Attenburg and producer of Dogtooth.
On a luxury yacht that sails on the beauty that is the Aegean Sea, six male acquaintances decide to embark on a competition to find who is “the best in general” by mercilessly grading each other’s skills, personal attributes, and habits. Sleeping positions, IKEA flat-pack assembly skills, breakfast choices and the more easily measurable characteristics, such as physical endowment: all to be rated in small books each of the six men amusingly kept on hand.
Tsangari thankfully kept this story of petty jostling authentically complex. She chose to resist against the cliché of continuously raising the degrees of conflict, and instead relied on subtle and varying intensities paired with witty, sharp dialogue to keep audiences both amused and entertained.
This simple, clever and outlandish storyline is set against the backdrop of remarkable cinematography, featuring lingering shots of the picturesque water and the men themselves, whether it be through the reflection of the window or from the doorway peeking in. These silent, prolonged shots served as a pause button from the constant competitiveness, providing a window of time for the audience to reflect and reset, almost giving the film an episodic characteristic.
Chevalier is a comic spectacle, but not without emotional reflection where amidst the competitiveness and ceaseless judging, these relentlessly competing men confide in each other, share secrets and fears. But such only occurs one-on-one or by themselves, as we see their vulnerabilities slowly unravel as they sit alone in their small rooms. We’re given a small window that allows us a slight peek into the emotional struggle each of these men undoubtedly possess. Despite the battle for alpha male supremacy, Chevalier poses as a great character analysis for these six men, giving their characters more depth and soul with each minute the film progresses.
While nothing incredibly crazy happens, it’s the moments of interaction which make Chevalier an impressive and fascinating film. It’s a hilarious critique of the male-ego and conventional gender roles. Perhaps it’s Tsangari’s point to showcase Chevalier as a look into the male pack mentality, exposing that men will always be boys.
Review score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Chevalier was screened and reviewed as part of Melbourne International Film Festival. It will screen at ACMI from October 6th to the 20th.