The life of 18th century composer Joseph Bologne reads like a boy’s own adventure.
Born in Guyana to a 16-year-old enslaved Senegalese woman, he was sent to a French boarding school at the age of seven by his father, a French nobleman, to become a ‘gentleman’: no small feat given his mixed-race origins. One-time favourite of the ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette, Bologne went on to become a post-revolutionary military hero before losing favour and dying in relative poverty.
Such an exceptional life has all the ingredients for a rich and rewarding cinematic experience. In the right hands, this story of an illegitimate coloured composer made a Chevalier by Marie-Antoinette herself could have been a tour-de-force in the manner of Il Boemo, Petr Vàclav’s excellent 2022 biopic of composer Josef Mysliveček.
Sadly, Chevalier is not that cinematic experience.
For audiences expecting a smidgeon of authenticity and a whole lot of Bologne’s sublime playlist, a red flag should go up in the opening scene when our hero strides onto the stage...