With our country literally trying to erase Black History from academia or at least twisting the facts to fit a certain narrative, I couldn’t help but be curious about Chevalier. Like numerous others who have been immortalized cinematically like the women mathmaticians highlighted in “Hidden Figures,” or the amazing composer Dr. Donald Shirley in “Green Book,” we are now getting another film history lesson inspired by the incredible story of composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Do we need it? Hell yeah!
The illegitimate son of an African slave (Robles Adekoluejo) and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court.
Two things that struck me to my core. How black men constantly denied not due to lack of skill, but simply due to the color of their skin. Secondly, the mask worn even in front of every woman who inhabits his life and orbit, particularly the one who brought him into this world is heartbreakingly realistic and ironically coincides with today’s ideology concerning race relations and the pain of being torn between two worlds and societal norms.
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is a force to be reckoned with. With each and every role he inhabits a brand new chapter of his talent in unveiled and this flick is no different. He tackles Chevalier with a veracity and focus that I had yet see him inhabit onscreen, but am not surprised. Harrison’s immensely gifted prowess was on full display, especially at the start of the film where his seven hours a day violin lessons pay off in spades. Is there anything he can’t do?
Robles Adekoluejo is a revelation and quiet fire amazing as Bologne’s Mom Nano and Samara Weaving as his love interest Marie Josephine is tender and alluring while navigating the intensely dangerous waters of interracial love.
For the most part, Stephen Williams keeps the pacing moving with fencing and musical sequences. However, there are a few spots that drag making the film a bit sleepy at some point. Kudos to screenwriter Stefani Robinson for letting audiences in on the fact that Marie Antoinette’s place in history and the power she wielded amounts to more than just being a woman who was beheaded for treason.
After watching Chevalier, one will be inspired to hit the history books to find out even more. Ultimately, after being denied to musical direct the Paris Opera, in 1799, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, passed away after months of battling illnesses. Oddly, his death certificate was lost in a fire, so the only sources of information about his death are the men who removed his body.
Produced Searchlight Pictures with a fantastic score by Kris Bowers and exquisite costumes from Oliver Garcia, Chevalier is in theaters now.