“Chevalier” illuminates a forgotten virtuoso

“The world needs change. Do you not agree?”

Story: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, wasn’t always a big deal. He was a boy taken away from his enslaved mother, bringing him from his home in the Carribean to Paris, France. But the soon-to-be Chevalier became a well-known violinist, composer, and all-around gentleman. But the color of his skin presented challenges even the fine maestro could not overcome. What to do? Vive la révolution!

Genre I’d put it in: Wonderfully layered biopics
Release Date: 2023
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Gotta say: What’s a Chevalier? I’ve got you, sweetie. It’s an honorary knighthood in France. Knighthood equals Code of Chivalry…Chevalier…you get it. You brilliant thing you. Anyway, this movie focuses on Joseph Bologne, who was given the title in 1761. An admirable fencer, violinist, and composer, who nonetheless is barely known in modern day. Hopefully, Chevalier will change that. Let’s hope this film blows up Bologne the way Amadeus did Mozart. As it stands, this movie is good enough to do just that.

Written and directed by Stephen Williams, this is his first big splash into dramatic filmmaking, though many will recognize his name from the TV’s Watchmen and Lost.) Williams wastes no time in introducing our main character, with the first scene a violin-off between Bologne and Mozart. (Oh to be a member of that audience…) The film then goes back to Bologne’s childhood, but quickly focuses on his years as an adult, from his education in music and fencing, through to the beginning of his work in the French Revolution. It’s a hell of a story, and Williams hews closely to historical facts, even when they seem unbelievable. The love between Bologne and Marie-Josephine de Montalembert? True. His being banned from the Paris Opera director’s seat because of his race and heritage? True. Showing many, many high-ranking fencers who the real GOAT was? Absolutely true. My only question? Why are we only just getting a story about this incredible man?

Maybe it’s because we had to wait for this cast. Okay, fine. Because Kelvin Harrison Jr. is absolutely magnetic as Bologne. And yes, Harrison did in fact play the violin in the film. And whoa he’s staggeringly talented in both his emotional and musical performances. Speaking of emotion, Samara Weaving’s Marie-Josephine de Montalembert is a woman, and Weaving does a wonderful job portraying the Marquise as the free-thinking woman she was. Though the real-life Marquise was a much more fascinating woman – both a writer and a salon holder in France – Weaving and Williams invoke the charged chemistry that had surely been between the two.

Ronke Adekoluejo’s brings feisty, pragmatic life to Nanon, Bologne’s mother (who ultimately wins her freedom and joins him in Paris), turning from memory to voice of reason. And, of course, it’s always wonderful to see Minnie Drive flex her Devious Lady muscles, and her operaic diva La Guimard is a delight. Special shout-out to Alex Fitzalan”s “angel on a Chevalier’s shoulder” turn as Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Bologne’s BFF and one of the first gentlemen revolutionaries of the French Revolution. What can I say; I want to run amok in that guy’s velvet and brocade wardrobe. A gal can dream, right? Because yes, the art direction, costuming, hair, make-up…the whole shebang? Absolutely glorious. And Jess Hall’s cinematography puts it all into beautiful perspective. Plus? Williams’ adept work behind the camera gives us some wonderful shots and glorious perspectives, as befitting such sumptuous beauty.

This is the kind of film that makes you want to dive into historical media the moment you get home. If you’re like me, you’ll want to know why this man was lost to time. Or rather, to the general riff-raff like the gal who wrote this review. Chevalier will hopefully pave the way for other incredible, but also forgotten, historical figures to take center stage. And if those films are even half as well written, directed, and performed? Honey, pass the popcorn.

Rest in Power, you (literal) magnificent bastard.

#Protip: Want to hear some of the Chevalier’s work? Here ya go. Enjoy.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
This entry was posted in 7 Pieces Of and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Chevalier” illuminates a forgotten virtuoso

  1. Dawn says:

    Perfect review!!! The final performance was stellar!!! I raced home Tuesday night determined to find and download that version. I absolutely loved this movie and I hope it garners much respect and many awards. It was brilliant!!

    Liked by 1 person

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