Chevalier is a 2022 American biographical drama film based on the life of the titular French-Caribbean musician Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.. The film is directed by Stephen Williams and written by Stefani Robinson. The film also stars Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Marton Csokas, Alex Fitzalan, Minnie Driver, and Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo.
Chevalier had its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022, and was released in the United States by Searchlight Pictures on April 21, 2023. The film received generally favorable reviews from critics.
In the late 1700s in Paris, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is performing on stage when a man who introduces himself as Joseph Bologne requests to accompany his performance of Violin Concerto No. 5. Initially both Mozart and the audience underestimate Joseph, but once he impresses them with his performance, the two musicians perform battling cadenza pieces, ending in a triumph for Joseph.
Joseph is born in Guadeloupe to Georges de Bologne, a plantation owner, and Nanon, an enslaved woman of African descent on George's plantation. As a child, Joseph is taken to a Parisian boarding school after his father notices his skill at violin and composition. Joseph is harassed by many of his peers and teachers but excels at his studies, music, and fencing. At the French court, Marie Antoinette is impressed by his skills after seeing him fence, and she knights him Chevalier de Saint-Georges ("Chevalier" is French for "knight"). Saint-Georges becomes a favored companion of the Queen and is popular member of court. Saint-Georges also attracts the attention of many female suitors, namely Marie-Madeleine Guimard, but he himself is attracted to Marie-Joséphine.
Saint-Georges seeks to become the director of the Paris Opera, but the committee in charge favors Christoph Willibald Gluck. He goes to Marie-Joséphine's cousin, Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse de Genlis, who agrees to produce an opera for him to impress committee members. Marie-Joséphine agrees to be the lead singer of his opera, even though her husband, Marc-René de Montalembert, refuses to allow her to perform. She leads the opera anyway, and begins an affair with Saint-Georges.
After his father's death, Saint-Georges' mother is freed from enslavement and meets him in Paris. Saint-Georges slowly grows to resent his mother as she sees him as rejecting his true-self in order to appease the white-dominated society around him. He is also ambivalent to the growing social discontent, intellectual discourse, and the large black population that surrounds him in Paris.
Marie Antoinette informs Saint-Georges that he has been barred from seeking the directorship of the Paris Opera on account of his race. She refuses to defend him as her standing is in decline among the nobility and the people. Saint-Georges later attends the opera, now headed by Gluck, and becomes intoxicated. After he has an outburst at Gluck, Guimard, and the Queen, Marc-René has him apprehended and threatens to break his fingers if he ever sees his wife again. Months later, Marie-Joséphine gives birth to a child, but because it has dark skin color, Marc-René has it killed. Outcast from high society, Saint-Georges becomes close with his mother and embraces more of his heritage and those who share his skin color.
As the French Revolution begins, Saint-Georges is inspired to compose a new concert to put on in support of the revolutionaries. Marie-Joséphine and Marie Antoinette both visit him separately, but he rejects both of their advances to rekindle their friendship. The Queen threatens to revoke his status as Chevalier and have him arrested if he puts on his concert. Saint-Georges plays the concert anyway, without wearing his powdered wig, and is nearly arrested by Marc-René. The audience members, however, rise up against the officers and Marc-René is forced to let him go. As the audience erupts in chaos, Chevalier walks out, passing the Queen and protestors.
The post script reads that in 1802, Napoleon prohibited Chevalier's music productions and re-instated slavery in French colonies.
In June 2020, it was reported that Searchlight Pictures had bought a feature pitch from Atlanta's Stefani Robinson for Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a biopic about the musician of the same name, with Stephen Williams attached to direct. In March 2021, it was reported that Kelvin Harrison Jr. was cast in the lead role of Saint-Georges. In July 2021, Samara Weaving joined the cast as the female lead. The following month, Lucy Boynton and Minnie Driver were added to the main cast, with Alex Fitzalan cast in a supporting role and the film's title shortened to Chevalier.
Principal photography began on September 7, 2021, in Prague, and ended in November 2021.
The film was scored by Kris Bowers and the soundtrack was released alongside the film.
Chevalier had its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022. Originally set to be released by Searchlight Pictures in theaters on April 7, 2023, the date was pushed back to April 21, 2023, and its on-demand release came on June 16, 2023.
Chevalier grossed $3.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $323,047 in the United Kingdom, for a total worldwide of $3.9 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside The Covenant, Evil Dead Rise, and the wide expansion of Beau Is Afraid, and was projected to gross $1–3 million from 1,275 theaters in its opening weekend. It ended up debuting to $1.5 million, finishing 11th at the box office.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 77% of 163 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's consensus reads: "Supported by Kelvin Harrison Jr.'s outstanding work in the title role, Chevalier offers an entertaining gateway into the incredible life of a brilliant artist." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 67 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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