SFF 2016 Review: Chevalier

Sydney Film Festival: Chevalier

Chevalier posterA fun bit of absurdism from the director of Attenburg, one that waves a pointy finger at male pissing contests.

Athina Rachel Tsangari has been at the forefront of the ‘Greek Weird Wave’, an unsurprising phrase for fans of her previous film Attenburg or Alps, which she produced for Yorgos Lanthimo. In the incredibly simple yet layered premise, a group of six men on a fishing trip compete to see who is ‘the best’ at everything, based on a series of arbitrary tests that cover everything from singing to literally measuring penises. As the contest intensifies, so does the oneupmanship, causing a mix of cabin madness and competitiveness.

Tsangari uses her typically absurdist eye to skewer notions of masculinity and power plays, this collective of six Greek men handily representing a range of male personality types from the alpha dogs to more nerdish leanings. The competition seems normal at first, but the absurd elements grow so steadily that ridiculous rapidly becomes the new normal on the boat. There is an odd kind of tension that lingers throughout, whether it is from the disembodied voice of the ship making rational announcements or the violence that is threatened (and occasionally delivered) at every turn. Yet the challenges themselves allow Tsangari to push the limits of male farce, from the building of an IKEA bookcase to comparing the length of erect phalluses after reading each other erotic stories. The most telling moments come in private, as one member gives himself a self-motivational speech about his attractiveness in a mirror, while another tries to wake everybody up to show them the magnificence of his latest erection. The urgency of his boast, and the lack of response that he receives, is both hilarious and pathetic. Which is kind of Tsangari’s point, but delivered in a completely deadpan fashion.

Given the luxury yacht location, and the social status of most of the people on the ship, there’s a vague sense of commentary about class warfare in Greece as well, especially as the ship’s crew have to blindly go along with the games. However, by the end it’s clear that it’s not necessarily an exclusive trait of the elite, as the game is over but the cycle continues.

2015 | Greece | DIR: Athina Rachel Tsangari | WRITERS: Efthimis Filippou, Athina Rachel Tsangari | CAST: Yorgos Kendros, Panos Koronis, Vangelis Mourikis | DISTRIBUTOR: Vendetta Films (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes | RATING:★★★¾ (7.5/10)