21 thoughts on “Chevalier (2022)

  1. Eh, even if that pale blue on Marie Antoinette does have a sack back (doesn’t look like it but one can’t be sure) it still isn’t a ‘robe à la française’ – it’s a ‘pet en l’air’. Which is one of my favourite names for a garment ever – such a wonderfully rude, crude name for an elite fashion item.

    1. Neither of MA’s blue outfits appear to be francaises — one’s a court gown, the other’s a jacket. I think the pale white-ish gown might be a francise (tho’ the back isn’t shown), & it’s not a pet en l’air bec. it’s not cut short (there’s a full-length front view onscreen).

  2. The attitude that all of your complaints about accuracy (which have certainly sometimes extended to writing as well clothes) are valid complaints and everyone else’s discussions of accuracy are “whining” doesn’t seem entirely fair.

    People could certainly call what you do “whining” about something that doesn’t matter to a fictional story, and I’ve seen you react very negatively to comments like that. Which is entirely fair. You feel that discussing accuracy in this area is an important part of analyzing a historical movie and want respect for the knowledge and work you put into this blog, and I agree.

    What I don’t understand is why you won’t extend the same respect to others. Fictional stories can and do take creative licenses to tell a story – with regards both writing and costumes – and I agree that it would be limiting to write this off as inherently bad. At the same, I think there’s great value in being true to the real history, and at least sometimes this blog seems to share that opinion.

    It’s an entirely valid take for someone to criticize the liberties a movie takes in telling a historical story. It’s entirely valid for them to question why certain deviations were made and if they really improved the story. It’s entirely valid for them to discuss the ways that changing these historical truths can distort the meaning of the story or unfairly villainize historical figures (for example, the way Philippa Gregory writes Anne Boleyn.)

    It’s entirely valid for someone to, for example, say “Joseph Bologne’s life story was so dramatic and incredible that it was better than anything the moviemakers could have made up, and staying true to his real story would both have made for a better movie and respected his legacy more.”

    You don’t have to agree with that opinion whatsoever! By all means in fact, say why you think the artistic licenses taken were a great choice if that’s how you feel. But there’s no need to dismiss any and all criticism that isn’t yours as “whining” in the process.

    1. I think our friend at An Historian Goes to the Movies address why the plot of movies/TV shows can never be “historically accurate” here:



      Tl;dr — “Historically accurate movies are impossible, because making films requires so many assumptions about what was said and done and worn that historical accuracy becomes literally impossible, at least in any way scholars would understand the term.”

      Much of the time, when ppl complain a movie isn’t “historically accurate” they’re complaining that the movie’s plot changes or compresses the timeline, doesn’t show every single person, etc. Yet that’s exactly what movies need to do!

      1. Plus even when productions do strive for historical accuracy, people still complain. I remember how a big production detail of Wolf Hall was they tried to largely use natural or period accurate lighting (read: a lot of candles) in the majority of scenes… and then people complained it was too dark and you couldn’t see anything happening onscreen (especially during night scenes).

        1. “Plus even when productions do strive for historical accuracy, people still complain.”

          To be fair, I’ve seen quite a few about which people have few complaints. That’s not to say perfect, but are generally lauded. As for Wolf Hall… you say that, but that I have admit that one’s on the cinematographer. It didn’t ruin my experience but I get where people were coming from.

          But the cinematographer should have done a better job working with that lighting. Barry Lyndon (1975) sometimes used only a few candles to light a scene (tent scene, for example), and it was both perfectly visible and beautiful. They had to use a specialty lens, but we have even better sensors nowadays. That’s not to say the cinematographer wasn’t decent, but those circumstances called for something better. No offense to them. Then again most of the cinematography was kind of “workman” anyway so in a weird way it fit.

          I would argue it wasn’t the authenticity; it’s the fact they didn’t make it work. And it absolutely can be done.

      2. I think most people understand that 100% accuracy isn’t possible, in the sense of every single word and detail being verifiably something that actually happened. That doesn’t mean that the entire concept of historical accuracy is now invalid and there can never be any value in discussing the ways that historical media does or doesn’t stay true to the facts that we do know.

        For that matter, the points An Historian Goes to the Movie makes about why a movie can never be truly historically accurate (which are very true and well-made) also apply to the impossibility of 100% accurate costuming. Even in a movie with the greatest possible attention to accuracy, it would be impossible for every single garment to perfectly recreate the actual clothes worn by the actual historical figures at every moment, which is basically the equivalent of what AHGTTM says about how a movie cannot perfectly recreate every moment as if it had been caught on video. This is even more true when we’re talking about older periods where we may not know exactly how certain garments were constructed and surviving evidence is more limited – there’s always guesswork involved.

        Yet this doesn’t make the entire concept of accurate costuming now null and void. And similarly accuracy in writing is still worth discussing, even with the understanding that recreating history is always a messy and imperfect process.

        I think it’s very subjective and we all have different opinions about what degree of historical artistic license works, and our opinions may vary from movie to movie. All I’m saying here is that this range of opinions and the varied discussions about the topic should be respected, not dismissed as inherently whiny and worthless.

        1. Refer back to what I said: “This isn’t a bad thing, but I’m sure that nit-pickers will complain that the film doesn’t stick to the historical facts — as if any film did or should. Folks whined a lot about The Woman King (2022) not being “accurate” either, and yet classics like Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974) are just as much inaccurate hagiography that get a pass.”

          You’re welcome to write your own takedown of this or any other flick on your own blog re: historically accurate plot. This is not your place to do so. My site, my rules :D

          Because what I see in comments here 99% of the time, is exactly what I called out — whining about some films not telling a perfect reflection of history (and oh, interesting that those are BIPOC stories, hmm) while others w/equally not “accurate” stories get no such complaints.

  3. I really enjoyed the movie; I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat for weeks and I love the little touches (like how they show Joseph getting his wig powdered in an early scene, with a mask to cover his face from the powder). It definitely didn’t feel like it was covering as much time as it actually was (seemed more like a matter of months to a few years rather than the full decade or so all the events actually span) but I didn’t mind that since it mostly just made me want to learn more about Chevalier Saint-Georges and his life.

      1. It’s telling how much I was listening to it because Spotify was recently all “hey we have a whole album’s worth of his compositions, want to listen to that too?”

  4. I started watching this earlier today and still need to finish it, but so far it’s very engaging, entertaining, and I’m enjoying not knowing anything about where it’s going since I chose deliberately not to look up Joseph. I will check for historical accuracy later. For now, it’s just PURDY.

  5. There’s an exchange in Joseph’s final confrontation with Marie-Antoinette where she says something like, “Are you just doing this to get back at me?” And he responds “This is so much bigger than you!”
    However, I did not feel the movie did the work to show his commitment to the Revolution, and it did seem like he was motivated by spite. This is part of a larger problem in which the king is a non-entity and the film embraces the Ostrich Bitch narrative.
    I had the sense that the character was only aware of the civil unrest and a movement for equality at all because his “best friend” Philippe kept repeating, “Hey man, I’m starting up a Revolution! You should totally join!” It would have made more sense to cut down or completely remove the romance to develop Joseph as a budding Revolutionary in his own right.

    1. Yeah, this is a problem with trying to squeeze decades’ worth of events and relationships, and the motivations that emerge, into two hours; the Chevalier’s life really deserves a series. Very enjoyable, though, if only for the costuming and sets and Kelvin H.’s performance, and Adekoluejo’s as Nanon. (The musical duel with Mozart was entertaining, but I doubt it happened. Mozart was supposedly his landlord for a while, and Bologne was also friendly with Gluck. These brilliant artists were regarded as servants, so I imagine even rivals had some sense of kinship. Now many of their aristocratic patrons are only remembered for having had the good taste to employ Haydn and Mozart.)

    2. YES! Joseph is supposed to be a brilliant genius and has deep ties to the court, and yet, another man (and specifically a WHITE man) has to keep reminding Joseph a revolution is afoot? Yeah, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. Definitely seemed to be the vibe they were going for, to contrast how she’s this beautiful young woman who loves to sing but is all constrained by her older military worshipping meanie husband – especially since in scenes where she’s with her husband, she’s got it more or less up (or at least more ‘done’) but scenes where she’s hanging with Chevalier, it’s a lot more free flowing.

  6. The only defect is the bi erasure for all the film. Boulogne was bisexual, he had a long term relationship with fellow musician George Lamothe ( they met when they were childre ’cause lamothe’s father worked for Josep’s father ) and many flings with women, Josephine was not his big love, she was an other love and the one who got pregnant, stop.

    I get it why the bisexuality was erased but it’s important for Boulogne, his lover Louise Fusil described he and Lamothe as “Orestes and Pylades” ;)

  7. I struggled with this film, as did my husband. We did see it in the theatre and walked away feeling flat. I think the poor writing and the lack of development in the characters was very problematic. The other issue is something you mentioned, the complete absence of chemistry between Joseph and Marie-Josephine and no reason given as to why they fell in love. Other than, she’s pretty and unattainable and wants to escape an abusive husband. The story fell into one bad trope after another.

    In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity all around to tell a story about a man that sounds way more fascinating than the movie portrayed.

    (Forgive my errors, I have a bad migraine)

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