Movie Review - Chevalier

This is the official submission from Greece to the 89th Academy Awards. It was nominated for six Hellenic Awards, including Best Film, but it didn't win, so it's a wonder why the country submitted it. Perhaps, it's because Efthymis Filippou is the co-writer here and Filippou worked on Dogtooth, which was the official submission from Greece to the 83rd Academy Awards and did get the Oscar nod. Many countries will routinely submit films from familiar filmmakers or filmmakers who got the nod before. This film, however, is directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, a woman whose movie doesn't have a single woman in it, at least not on screen. It's about six men who are either middle-aged or nearing middle-age that are on a yacht, a small but fancy, multi-level boat on its way to Athens.

The men appear to be on some kind of vacation where they swim, jet-ski, wind-surf, sunbathe and go fishing. On the way back home but still on the open sea, they decide to play a game, a game called "The Best in General." There is a whole, dinner-table scene where the game is invented and somewhat explained, but it's not enough and even as we see the game played out through the film, there doesn't seem to be much of any defined rules. It's a game that's too nebulous or vague, which might be the point. The point might be that these middle-age, white, privileged men engage in these nebulous games for vanity or ego, which could be Tsangari's overall criticism of masculinity.

The six men are sitting at a dining table on the yacht one night talking. One of them is Christos, played by Sakis Rouvas. He's the one who comes up with "The Best in General" game. At the end of the game, the prize is a ring called a Chevalier ring. Yet, the game design is too loose and doesn't engage or include the audience in its execution. At first, it just seems like the game involves performing tasks, even chores, and seeing who can accomplish the tasks first. This is problematic because completing a task first doesn't mean "best." For example, we see the six men cleaning the yacht. Yes, someone might finish cleaning first but it doesn't mean his cleaning was the best.

There are scenes where five of the men will observe the sixth while he sleeps. What a person does or looks like while asleep is something one can't control, so it seems unfair that the sixth man should be judged for something he can't control. The five men just acknowledge superficial things.

There is even a scene where the men are showing each other their penises. It's implied that it's all to determine who has the biggest penis. Yet, if Tsangari is going to go there, then she should really go there. The way the men go about it is problematic. The men go into the bathroom alone and take a picture on their smart phones. In that case, the photo can be manipulated in any number of ways, so it wouldn't be totally accurate a representation. If you're doing a penis measure, then they should have actually measured in actual centimeters, fully erect.

They do draw one another's blood and have their blood analyzed in terms of sugar and cholesterol levels. In that case, they get actual numbers, so why not actual numbers for the penis measure. Also, strangely, when they do the blood tests, the yacht seems like it's docked in Athens. Yet, the men stay on the yacht, and it's never explained why. Why can't they leave the boat? The point system is also never explained. It all feels arbitrary.

What's left is the cursory glances of the relationships between the men. For example, Christos is dating the daughter of one of the other men who is a doctor. Two of the men are brothers. One brother is Dimitris, played by Makis Papadimitriou, who has a thing for pebbles. The rest seem to be friends of some sort or the other. Playing the game supposedly tests or strengthens those relationships. Those effects feel scattershot and the impact of which don't hit hard.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains graphic nudity and blood.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.

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