Thursday, 28 July 2016

REVIEW - CHEVALIER (ATHINA RACHEL TSANGARI)


A Greek New Wave film that, finally, has some relation to reality. Athina Rachel Tsangari's Chevalier may lack the distinctiveness of her former work, and that of her national filmmaking compatriots, but it's in possession of a winning combination of incisiveness and affability, giving it warmth and depth in equal measure. A satirical lambaste of masculinity in the damage it wreaks upon itself, this caustic comedy recognizes its male characters' inescapable tenure to society in general - a society that is, alas, designed by the man for the benefit of his other men - just as their boat maintains its ties to the mainland dock. With a strong ensemble over nine roles, Tsangari examines the nature of masculinity and its manifestations in every available aspect, with results that are pleasantly predictable alongside those that are quite the opposite. Naturally, absurdity and bleakness define much of what these men do, and much of what we make of it, but Tsangari never capitulates to these such specific temptations. The absurd quality is attained organically, through her ever-objective gaze upon actions that may feel normal to their perpetrators, but certainly don't appear normal to their audience. And that normalcy is threaded throughout Chevalier, helping to uphold the crucial detail of keeping these unbelievable acts entirely believable in context. It's only out of context, in the filmmaker's aforesaid objectivity, that her satire truly takes shape. As such, Chevalier remains a somewhat shapeless film, one which might have reaped greater rewards from indulging in those temptations - it's arguably at its best in its more immediately engaging, occasionally graphic moments. It's a fine line that is walked here between reality and absurdity, however, and one which this film largely walks well.