‘Chevalier’ is now available on digitalCategory: Movies
The film Chevalier has been acclaimed by critics and audiences. It has also been touted as a little dull by others. It is a dramatized biographical film about Joseph Bologna, a contemporary of Mozart whose musical talent was praised by the world. There was a little hitch, however, when it came to his life. The fact that he was mixed race played a role in his upbringing and his adulthood, which plays out on the screen.
Bologne’s mother was a slave and his father her owner on the island of Guadeloupe. When he was small his father took him away from his mother and enrolled him in a boarding school in Paris. There he honed his musical skills, both playing the violin and composing music, and his fencing abilities were beyond compare. He excelled in almost everything he attempted.
The film shows his cockiness and stubbornness as he rises to fame in France. Bologne (played beautifully by Kevin Harrison, Jr.) was taken under the wing of Queen Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) who elevated him to the rank of Chevalier de Saint Georges. Thereafter he was known as either Chevalier, St. Georges, or simply Joseph by his friends.
This was the mid 1700s when there was plenty of political and social strife in the country. Being black brought him plenty of enemies who did not look kindly on blacks living in France. He also made enemies with his amorous lifestyle with white women.
His goal was to become the head of the Paris Opera and soon found himself in a contest. The winning composer who wrote the best opera would be proclaimed the new maestro of the Paris Opera.
Things were looking good for Joseph. He soon had his mother living with him in Paris and his life was pleasurable, both personally and professionally. But the political outrage encroached on both. This was, after all, the time just prior to the French Revolution.
The costumes in the film are beautiful and the atmosphere adds to the mood of the scenes. The music is outstanding and music lovers will undoubtedly enjoy the score. Unfortunately, when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power and reinstated slavery most of Joseph’s compositions were destroyed. The composer was a major player in aiding the revolution and speaking up for justice and “liberty.” He led an all-black regiment in the French Revolution.
There has been a renaissance of his life and work with new discoveries of his compositions. This film brings his life and work to audiences in an entertaining way that stresses the injustices of the time but also the talent of Bologne. Maybe not as talented as his contemporary Mozart, he definitely composed some beautiful music.
Chevalier is rated PG-13.
Click below to see a bonus about the film, “Chevalier: Note by Note”
About the Author
Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 30 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, is the entertainment correspondent for Good Day Orange County, and has her own TV show, Beyond the Red Carpet, on Village Television in Orange County. She is a longstanding member of the Television Critics Association and is accredited by the MPAA. Follow her on Twitter.