TIFF 2015: Chevalier
Athina Rachel Tsangari’s much-anticipated follow-up to her 2010 film Attenberg finds her making a (sort of) chamber piece poking fun at masculinity with Chevalier. The film takes place almost entirely on a boat, where six men are taking a vacation with each other. One night the men try coming up with a game to play in order to pass the time, when one of them suggests a strange competition: everyone will constantly judge each other on every aspect (how they dress, how they react to things, what they do, what they don’t do, if they bite their nails, etc.), assigning points to “good” behaviour, and at the end of the trip the man with the most points will be declared the best man.
Chevalier is one of those cases that proves the old adage of hindsight being 20/20. In retrospect, the admiration for what Tsangari is doing can overshadow the fact that watching Chevalier unfold is a little too dry for its own good. Tsangari leaves plenty of room for interpretation in terms of figuring out what exactly this absurdist case of male competition can represent, but some moments point toward a fun case of role reversal between genders (Getting judged on a constant basis based on arbitrary and cosmetic standards? I’m sure one gender can relate to that). Yet Tsangari’s concept only has fleeting pleasures, and Chevalier has what feels like a lot of dead air between its comedic highlights. At the end, Chevalier at least follows through on its set-up: a winner is selected, the men go their separate ways. And the film disappears almost as quickly as it arrives.