‘Chevalier’ is a Striking Subversion of Masculinity

GameStop, Inc.


This is a repost of our November 6th review of Chevalier from AFI Fest.

We all have insecurities. We also have a certain competitive nature where we measure ourselves by those directly around us, especially men. But what if our insecurities and flaws were part of a competition? What if we were judged by our manner of sleeping? Do they snore? Do they drool? Those questions make up the plot of Chevalier, the pitch black comedy from director Athina Rachel Tsangari. The story is about six men on a luxury yacht and a competition they’ve made up to pass the time where each one judges the others in order to discover whom is the best among them, or so they hope.

On their vacation, the six friends of varying acquaintance go diving, ride jet skis, and try their hands at spear fishing in the lap of luxury. There’s the doctor (Yiorgos Kendros), the oldest of the group and owner of the yacht; Yorgo (Panos Koronis), a father of two and generally affable fellow; Yannis (Giorgos Pyrpassopoulos), an insurance broker who finds himself of great self-importance; Demitiris (Efthymis Papadimitriou), Yannis’ brother and somewhat of an idiot savant; Josef (Vangelis Mourikis), a slightly older man who can be unsure of himself; and Christos (Sakis Rouvas), the younger, fitter partner of the doctor and hopeful successor to his thriving medical practice. During their trip, the men are waited on by the boat’s captain (Nikos Orphanos) and wait staff (Giannis Drakopoulos and Kostas Filippoglou). While passing the time, the men devise a game where each of their flaws will scrutinized by the others, which leads to an escalating sense of distrust by all on board, including the wait staff who begin to privately weigh in on the favorites or otherwise.

At first, Chevalier starts off kind of dry, but that’s merely to allow the audience to get a sense of each of these characters without one of them just proclaiming all of their character traits. Once we get a grip of who these characters are and the game is underway, the comedic escalation is subdued yet effective. Before long these characters are consumed with a competitive spirit that leads to innocuous conversations having greater meaning as they jot down notes about each other’s numerous flaws. I’m not one to generally laugh at merely a burp, but there’s one particular moment when a character burps at dinner, then silence follows, and the scribbling in notebooks commences around the table. It is absolutely hilarious. These men put themselves in more and more precarious situations, whether judging the size of each other’s penises or calling their loved ones on speakerphone so that the others can listen. There’s a human cost to the escalating lunacy that Athina Rachel Tsangari and co-writer Efthymis Filippou find deep within their flawed characters.

Amplifying the ill-conceived game that the characters engage in is Athina Rachel Tsangari’s direction, which frequently plays with the frame’s focal point. In many regards, the camera’s focal point is in the middle of the shot while characters move closer to the camera, fading slowly in and out of focus as means of illustrating the shortsighted nature ofChevalier’s games. In the opening shot, a lone diver emerges from the water, appearing as a blip on the screen in comparison to the massive cliff that hangs over the ocean – the immense magnitude of the frame accentuates just how tiny the quibbles that make up the rules of the game truly are. Tsangari is never overtly cinematic with her presentation, opting for a much more naturalistic sense of lighting which is most noticeable when the game is conceived over a candle-lit dinner.

Chevalier is a film that takes its concept not as far as some American audiences might expect, though it rationally pushes its characters towards a comedic edge of personal insecurities. These six men, as well as the three crew members of the yacht, can’t see the disastrous side effects of their seemingly innocuous game, but it drives them to places and thoughts that were never prepared for, all the while playing for some strong, hearty laughs. Athina Rachel Tsangari has crafted a smart little comedy to come out of Greece, and one can’t help but wonder just how much the political strife of the country influenced the portrayal of a bunch of well-to-do self-absorbed assholes nitpicking each other. What can be said, however, is that with Chevalier Athina Rachel Tsangari skews masculinity in an artful and comedic style.

  • Chevalier


The new film from director Athina Rachel Tsangari, Chevalier is an amusing of subversion of traditional masculinity presented with ample cinematic flair.

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