Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Chevalier’ and ‘Time to Choose’

Chevalier caption
Six guys enjoying an extended at-sea stag party in ‘Chevalier’

In case you missed it, here’s a link to a fascinating Guardian story about how perceptions of masculinity differ between American and British men. As a man (and I do use the term advisedly) who’s lived in both countries, I can attest that the story’s conclusion — that American men feel ‘completely masculine’ at a rate considerably higher than do their UK counterparts — is broadly accurate.

Of course, the story does make one wonder how men in other countries would rate themselves on the ‘0-6’ scale utilized by YouGov’s study – and, judging from the male characters in Chevalier (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, June 10), Greek men would likely rate themselves as even more testosterone-laden than their American co-genderists. Sorry, dudes.

Set aboard a yacht somewhere in the Aegean, Chevalier tells the story of six guys (presumably six quite well-off guys, as there’s no hint of Greece’s ongoing slow-motion financial crisis) enjoying an extended at-sea stag party. Their days are occupied with fishing, scuba diving and jet-skiing; their nights with gourmet meals and mind games.

One of them, however, doesn’t quite fit in. Dimitris (Makas Papadimitriou) can only hold his breath for eighteen seconds and is balding, rather flabby, and more than a little geeky: instead of fishing, he’s spent his holiday supplementing his pebble collection.


In fact, Dimitris is only on the trip because his mother insisted that older brother Yannis (Yorgos Pirpassopoulos) bring him along. Despite knowing that Dimitris will be dead weight, Yannis has acquiesced to Mom’s demands — and, though aware he’s only a charity case, Dimitris does his best to keep up appearances.

Time passes. After days spent doing push-ups, using rowing machines, admiring their own physiques, and – naturally – bragging about erections, the men decide it’s time for something a little more refined, and, as the yacht turns back towards Athens, our half-dozen heroes decide to play a game to determine who among them is, overall, the Best Man.

The rules of the game are maddeningly imprecise and broad. Everything must be measured: the ease with which a participant sleeps, the time one takes to assemble a bookshelf – and, of course, who has (and who doesn’t have) an erection when they awaken in the morning. Are you detecting a pattern?

Written and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari (yes, she is a woman), Chevalier is being marketed with the tagline ‘a buddy movie without the buddies’, and for once there’s some truth in cinematic advertising. None of its characters – not even the brothers – seem to like one another very much, and you probably won’t like them much either. Nonetheless, you’ll glean dark amusement from their stern dedication to confirming the worst male stereotypes.

For those looking for something a little less priapic, consider Time to Choose, a climate-change documentary opening at Landmark’s California Theatre on June 10. I was unable to screen the film in advance, but its pedigree (director and Berkeley resident Charles Ferguson’s previous efforts include the Academy Award-winning Inside Job) suggests it will be very worthwhile indeed.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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