TIFF 2015: Chevalier
In Athina Rachel Tsangari’s wonderfully pointed absurdist comedy Chevalier, a leisurely fishing trip severs as the setting for the deconstruction of the male ego. When the harmless banter between six Greek men on a yacht gets a bit too personal, the men decide to take part in a game, “Chevalier,” in which one of them will be crowned “the best in general.” The rules of the competition are simple as each man will judge the other competitors on everything from their physical fitness to their mental prowess to their choice in clothing. Points will be given, or deducted, based on the qualities that each judge feels the perfect man should exemplify.
With the coveted “Chevalier ring” serving as the trophy, which the winner will boastfully get to wear for whole a year, the competitiveness within each man eventually reaches ridiculous levels. Soon they are judging each other on how they speak on the phone, the positions they sleep in, and even the strength of their erections. Every conversation is turned into an interrogation where no subject is off-limits. As personal rivalries and deep-seeded resentments surface, each man is forced to figure out how to win the game while keeping their numerous insecurities and flaws from being exposed.
Wonderfully absurd in its premise, Tsangari’s film does a fantastic job of highlighting the foibles of the male ego. The characters in her film may attempt to display a lot of machismo, but they are ultimately children desperately seeking validation from their peers. They systematically take down one another in hopes of keeping attention away from their own weaknesses. Like bullies on a playground, they feed off each other’s insecurities by adding pressure to each choice they make. As one man points out, someone may give you an awful shirt, but once you put it on the responsibility is yours.
Fortunately choosing to get behind Chevalier is an easy one. Overflowing with wit and biting commentary, Tsangari’s film is an expectional examination of masculinity. Chevalier may make male viewers hang their head in shame, but they will do so while laughing in the process.