DIR: Athina Rachel Tsangari • WRI: Efthymis Filippou, Athina Rachel Tsangari • PRO: Maria Hatzakou, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos • DOP: Christos Karamanis • ED: Matthew Johnson, Yorgos Mavropsaridis • DES: Anna Georgiadou • CAST: Vangelis Mourikis, Nikos Orphanos, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos
Chevalier, the latest from writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari, appears to be getting a release in Ireland through its association with the burgeoning Greek “weird wave” movement. Numerous of the country’s films in recent years – Tsangari’s previous film Attenberg, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth and Alexandros Avranas’ Miss Violence – have received critical acclaim and accolades at International award ceremonies. Following the surprise success of Lanthimos’ recent movie The Lobster, it makes sense that distributors are pushing for more Greek films to play internationally.
This weird-wave derives its name from the dark absurdity of Greece’s current cinematic outputs, perhaps a response to the turbulence of the country in recent years. Chevalier boasts a winning premise in keeping with the movement. Six fishermen, journeying back to Athens by boat, kill time by constantly pitting against each other in competitions. One of the men devises a new game – “The Best at Everything” – whereby the men rank each other on everything (sleeping, table-manners, building Ikea furniture and penis-size). The person who has the most points by the time they dock at Athens is the winner.
The film shares similarities with The Lobster (Tsangari produced three of Lanthimos’ works), particularly its wordy script and the deadpan delivery by its actors. However, comparing the two movies only serves to highlight the flaws of Chevalier. Both are billed as dark comedies. Yet, while The Lobster managed to make a recurring gag about a man banging his nose violently against a desk funny, Chevalier barely raises more than a few light chuckles at situations which should have been hilarious. The latter’s premise enables it to go either two interesting ways. Events could begin lightly but may then escalate into Michael Haneke-esque horror, highlighting the dangers of this toxic form of masculinity. Or, the events could become more absurd and screwball-esque, signifying through satire the ludicrousness of man’s need for competition. Chevalier does neither, sitting rather uncomfortably between the two. Although, the movie certainly portrays the crew’s endless game-playing in a negative light, its meandering pace and limp humour (Tsangari appears to think a heavy-set man lip-syncing to Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’ is the height of hilarity) removes any of Chevalier’s potential to be truly edgy. Thus, one is stuck with these unlikeable characters for 105 minutes, while they do very little to shock, to make the viewer laugh or to truly engage.
On the positive front, Christos Karamanis cinematography is excellent. The film opens with a beautiful long take of a vast coastal cliff as the men reach the shore. As Chevalier continues, the area covered within the frame gradually becomes tighter, with all action eventually taking place on the boat itself, mirroring the claustrophobia of its characters. Also, the performances are quite good, even if the actors are working with thin characters. Makis Papadimitrous as Dimitris, the kind but weakest member of the crew, manages to add some depth to his character while also eliciting the most laughs through his humorous delivery. However, with a weak third act, which ends with a whimper, these are only minor joys in movie which is not mischievous enough for its own good.
Chevalier is released 22nd July 2016