Inspired by the true story of Joseph Bologne, an 18th-century composer, “Chevalier” breaks barriers with a modern musical twist.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner. Bologne (Harrison Jr.) rises in French high society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, catching the eye of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court. However, as the French Revolution mounts, Bologne’s alliance shifts as the Queen’s court deems him a “party trick” and a “pet” playing the violin.
Samara Weaving, Minnie Driver, Marton Csokas, and Alex Fitzalan also star in the Searchlight Pictures film.
“Chevalier” is directed by Stephen Williams (“Lost,” “Hard Time: The David Milgaard Story”), from a script written by Stefani Robinson (“Atlanta,” “What We Do in the Shadows”). Robinson, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, and Dianne McGunigle also serve as producers.
Kris Bowers composed the original score, with musical performances produced and arranged by Michael Abels.
Director Williams recalled actor Harrison Jr. approaching the musical sequences with the goal to “give audiences an instant adrenaline rush and convince them that this guy can crush the heavyweight champ of classical music at the time.” A tense showdown between Bologne and Mozart is teased in the trailer.
“It’s one thing to learn to play the violin but another to do what Kelvin did, to move like a rock star and introduce us to this incredible persona at the same time,” Williams said in a press statement.
And a more modern rock star served as the aesthetic inspiration for Bologne, with Harrison Jr. drawing a comparison between the Chevalier and late icon Prince.
“I love that Joseph has a bit of cheekiness with his long lashes, eyeliner, and beauty mark. He’s elegant but also edgy and a little androgynous,” Harrison Jr. said. “The clothes were so stunning they really helped to give me that rock star feel.”
Harrison noted of the collaboration with director Williams, “We talked a lot about what it is to be a young Black artist, about how hard you have to try to keep your dignity and your self-love. I felt Stephen got it, he got me, he got the story, and he really got the ways in which Joseph can be an inspiration to people now.”
“Chevalier” premieres April 7, 2023 in theaters.
Check out the trailer below, and read IndieWire’s review here.