So much of the nasty stuff in the news lately can be laid at the feet of toxic masculinity. From the collective hissy-fit of Ghostbros to a couple of domestic abusers in Orlando and Nice, masculine culture appears to be a poisonous brew. Therefore, Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Chevalier is a timely arrival as it zeroes in on the minutiae that constructs the modern male identity.
As the men compete to find out who among them is the best, their dialogue reveals a unifying obsession with units of measurement. Tsangari seems to posit that the heart of modern masculinity lies in that desire for discrete data, coupled with an unspeakable fear of ambiguity. The film mines this main theme by moving beyond gender and drawing attention to links with class, technology and language. However, for all the interesting things Chevalier tries to say, it fails on a cinematic level.
Like her former collaborator Yorgos Lanthimos did with The Lobster, Tsangari attempts to create a comedy that satirises contemporary society. While The Lobster succeeded in the laughs but fumbled on the commentary, Chevalier does the opposite. The games that the men play sound funny in theory, but are often flat in execution. A scene where they race each other to build an Ikea bookshelf is one such example.
Part of the problem may be the performances. The Lobster dealt in broad caricatures and a deadpan style, while Chevalier features more naturalistic performances that may be too subtle for satirical enjoyment.
Towards the end, Chevalier does begin to approach hiliarity before reaching a well-crafted conclusion. Nevertheless, the film still involves a lot of trudging through scenes that are thematically intriguing but cinematically unengaging. Compared with the skewering of masculinity in last years Force Majeure, Chevalier, despite its games, can’t compete.
CAST: Yiorgos Kendros, Panos Koronis, Vangelis Mourkis, Makis Papadimitriou, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas
DIRECTOR: Athina Rachel Tsangari
WRITERS: Efthymis Filippou and Athina Rachel Tsangari
SYNOPSIS: In the middle of the Aegean Sea, six men on a fishing trip on a luxury yacht decide to play a game. The man who wins will be the best man. And he will wear on his smallest finger the victory ring: the Chevalier.