Chevalier starts strong, stark, serious. The opening composition, with its scraggly cliff face and roaring slate-blue tide, suggests the weight of legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.
Though it employs Bergman’s archetypes and symbolism, Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s film is billed as satire.
When you view Chevalier from that flippant angle, this stripped-down film morphs into a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek farce revealing masculinity’s toxic fragility.
Six male Greek friends on the titular yacht returning to Athens from a spearfishing trip in the Aegean Sea decide to empirically determine who among them is the best man. They devise impromptu pissing contests, rating each other’s performance and habits from their oral hygiene and how high they wear their pants to how they take coffee and — of course — penis size. The three crewmen watch impassive at first, but also slowly succumb to judging themselves.
The actors all command their archetypal characters, from cocky Christos to quasi-savant Dimitri, with brilliant naturalism. The effective performances highlight the men’s respective strengths and weaknesses, complicating their game and further proving monolithic masculinity as a straw man. There are no winners, since being a man only becomes competition when you make it one.
As Dimitri states early, “It’s because there’s no such common perception that the game even works.”
Chevalier screens April 15 at 1:30 p.m., April 16 at 4:30 p.m. and April 17 at 3 p.m. at A/perture
— Anthony Harrison