One of the 18th century’s only classical composers of colour – Chevalier review | Films | Entertainment

This handsome period drama tells the fascinating and little-known true story of Joseph Bologne, one of the 18th century’s only classical composers of colour.

Kelvin Harrison Jr is so good in the lead role, you wish he’d been handed a better script.

This is an unusual man living in a fascinating time but all the edges are smoothed off to service a formulaic underdog drama and historical romance.

His story begins with a toe-curling sequence in an opera house where Joseph interrupts a performance to challenge Mozart to a violin battle which definitely didn’t happen.

After the pair trade fiddle solos, the maestro leaves the stage screaming, “Who the f*** was that?”

Flashbacks provide an answer. The son of a French plantation owner and an enslaved Senegalese woman, Bologne was sent to a top Parisian school where he became a fencing champion and a virtuoso musician.

That bizarre violin noodling attracts the attention of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) who bestows on him the title Chevalier. She also invites him to compete for the coveted position of head of the Paris Opera.

But romancing an aristocrat’s wife (Samara Weaving) and snubbing a diva (Minnie Driver) leads to his downfall.

Bologne goes on to play a key role in the French Revolution but his political awakening is way too thinly sketched here.

Chevalier, Cert 12A In cinemas now


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