Tsangari's Chevalier follows a group of six men of varying ages who, having been invited on a yachting holiday in the Aegean sea by a mutual acquaintance spend their days waterskiing, scuba-diving and relaxing over civilised dinners. As the days draw on, we observe them scrutinising one another in a display of increasingly absurd masculine bravado.
Following an innocuous dinner party conversation, in which the men glibly analyse each other's weaknesses and qualities, an argument escalates and the weekend then progresses into a contest of individual superiority. The group decide to embark on an extreme version of a game of 'Chevalier' – a series of competitions to determine who among them holds the comically stiff title of 'the Best in General'.
The categories for judgement range from who possesses the best posture while sleeping to who is best at skimming stones, to who possesses the highest libido.
Each takes the competition to task with an absurd sincerity, and the rivalry becomes increasingly fierce, all the while conducted with a refined politeness aimed, futilely, at concealing their childish rivalry. We observe each party member battling with his own ego as each asks one another other seemingly innocuous questions – only to raise an eyebrow and surreptitiously whip out his notebook, meticulously jotting down the pros and cons of each of his competitors.
The insularity of an all-male cast gives the film the feeling of a wryly comic Twelve Angry Men...on waterskis. As the film progresses, we see the insecurities and rivalries of each brought to the fore, coupled with a mercilessness from which no protestations of friendship are safe.
There's something of fellow Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' deadpan sincerity in this latest offering from Tsangari. A budding auteur of Greek contemporary cinema, she displays an uncanny ability to sharply observe contemporary society's masculine foibles. Like Lanthimos' Dogtooth and more recently The Lobster, her deadpan characters lack any self-awareness as to the hilarity of their situation.
From unwittingly homoerotic moments to merciless treachery, Tsangari's men pull off the brilliant feat of being pathetically competitive and unprecedented in their brutality – one's reminded of the boasting heroes of Homeric Epic in these heavily moisturised Greek machos.
Subtly drawn and endlessly witty, Tsangari's absurdist film will no doubt spark much debate on changing perspectives on modern masculinity. We recommend wholeheartedly.
|What||Chevalier film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
22 Jul 16 – 23 Sep 16, Event times vary
|Website||Click here to|