I wonder how you would feel, if everything you did, from the sleeping position you adopt, to your ability to slay a calamari (yes really) was to be rated 24/7. It’s really being constantly ‘liked’ – or not – by your mates in reality, rather than online, on every miniscule moment of your existence. And the experience is alarming, but addictive. That’s the premise of this sparky exploration of masculinity by new Greek cinema auteur Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg). She puts the most intimate aspects of what being a man means under a meticulous microscope, in this intriguing yet incisive study of the games men play, love it or hate it. I am in the former camp.
The (subtitled) Greek film opens like a tourist commercial in the Aegean, with six men wriggling out of their wetsuits on a luxury private yacht and hosing themselves down. They are being helpful to each other, but then line up competitively with their fishy catch, to be pictured together. You can’t help comparing their catches, but as we are always told, size doesn’t matter. Or maybe it does, as they decide to engage in an exercise which has disaster written all over it. They are each issued with a notebook and pen and have to start playing the game, which will decide which one is ‘best in general’ and thus be awarded the Greek chevalier signet ring of the title.
Given that I come from a competitive-to-the-death family, which had to ban Christmas board games, because of adult tantrums over Monopoly, I adored this movie. And obviously, as the notebooks fill up and things get more pressured on the yacht, the contests get more bizarre and malevolent. Double-handed deck swabbing – not a euphemism – and measuring up personal equipment – this is a euphemism – make for good fun. It also stands up as a machismo metaphor for the Greek state.
The sinister ‘Doctor’ holds all the trump cards, but even he is stumped by one of the final challenges, losing his cool to a cd rack, a self assembly from a flat-pack furniture company. And even the handsome Christos has a meltdown when he gets a high cholesterol reading from the Doctor’s medical, that stymies his race to the top. Meanwhile, sibling rivalries, off-screen relationship difficulties (the only female input) and the physical challenges of a life at sea start to scupper the best-laid plans of the nautical sextet.
The soundtrack is superb, ranging from a kooky karaoke of Minnie Ripperton’s Loving You to Mark Lanegan’s Bombed and Petula Clark singing Let it Be Me as the plaintive closing melody. Panos Koronis, Efthymis Papadimitriou, Giorgos Pyrpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas, Vangelis Mourikis, Giannis Drakopoulos, Kostas Filippoglou, Yiorgos Kendros, Nikos Orphanos are the Greek ensemble cast.
by Liz Kennedy
CHEVALIER (cert 18) will screen at QFT from Fri 22 – Thurs 28 July and runs at a manageable 1 hour 45 minutes, but leave time afterwards to ponder on how you would cope with the challenges of being under constant surveillance. Blood may be spilt. Would you crack or would you flourish under the potentially life-threatening situations?