You may have been living under a stone and not noticing it (and by stone we mean Marvel Studios), but in the last few years, Greece has been giving European Cinema some social and comedic insight. The so called Greek Weird Wave started in 2010 with Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, and pleasantly continued into Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg. And just as Lanthimos came back with The Lobster, Tsangari gifts us Chevalier, which won the official competition at the London Film Festival in 2015, and Best Undistributed Film at the Village Voice Film Poll of the same year.
It’s not the most appealing of plots on paper. Six men, all well off in life, take a fishing trip on a luxury yacht sailing the Saronikos Sea. On the return trip to Athens, bored out of their minds, they decide to play a game called “Chevalier”. It’s played like this: during the final days of the voyage, they evaluate each other on everything, and each create a challenge to the group to compete between themselves. At the end, the one with most points would win a chevalier ring. And so it begins. From what kind of underwear they wear, to cholesterol levels, snoring, love of their partner, cleaning skills, and sleeping position, nothing is off limits to the Chevalier, making the whole business a metaphorical (and at one point literal) “who has the biggest d*ck” competition. The jury at London called it a “study of male antagonism seen through the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker”, and though it’s not as absurdist as The Lobster, it’s not exactly sane either.
With intense performances all around, Tsangari keeps it realistic from beginning to end, with most gags delivered visually and well seasoned by Christos Karamanis’ brilliant cinematography and the low-key, on point editing by Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Lobster) and Matthew Johnson (Attenberg). She gives us a funny and profound analysis of human nature, the filmic equivalent of Tripadvisor for People. From what criteria each man uses to judge their fellows, to the tensions that build from the men’s past, passing through the laconic captain’s voice that announces life’s smallest tragedies, Chevalier never steps up to a dark twist, or descends into dystopian madness – even the final “confrontation” scene, if one wants to so call it, has the most un-dramatic resolution.
The trailers don’t do it justice – Chevalier is all about the little moments, the judgemental looks, the scribbling in the notebook, the throbbing erections. It may have passed mostly unnoticed in the big world cinema releases, but if you have a chance to give it a watch in the big or small screen, give it a go. Soon you’ll be keen on playing the game of “The Best at Everything”.
Chevalier will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd July.