Gentleman is a biographical film about violin virtuoso Joseph Bolonge Chevalier de Saint George directed by Stephen Williams and written by Stefani Robinson.
“Play Violin Concerto No. 5!” Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) screams as he takes to the stage, confident in his abilities, ready to compete against the revered Mozart. he he he yells. Bologne shreds that violin to a standing ovation from the French elite. The origin of him begins when his white father, a slave owner, buys him in the French colony of Guadeloupe and leaves him in a high-class boarding school for boys. The school is supposed to nurture his talent as a violinist and swordsman. He is treated like shit during his time at school, but is given the opportunity to prove himself to King Louis and Mary Antionette (Lucy Boynton), who bestow upon him the title of Chevalier de Saint George, leading to his death. the top of high society. .
Bologne’s music is the talk of the town, but he is not allowed to perform in the most prestigious venues in Paris because the color of his skin is a barrier to access. At a party hosted by the Queen, she issues a challenge between him and another composer to write an opera. The winner will perform at the Paris Opera and will be crowned director of the company. He needs sponsors and a singer. After talking calmly, the musician gets what he needs to win first place. But a chance love affair with his opera star Marie Josephine (Samara Weaving) may destroy everything he has built.
As a black man in wealthy French circles, there’s not much he can say and do, so he plays the violin for catharsis. Joseph has a false sense of reality and often conflates perfection with popularity. He believes that he is loved for his talent when people only value what he can do for them. The first sexual encounter with Marie Josephine is not seen as a loving moment. Kris Bower’s brilliant score hints that this action has sealed his fate. His conceit hampers her ability to see clearly. His best friend Phillipe (Alex Fitzalan) tries to give him an outlet by traveling to London to meet other abolitionists, but he refuses. Well, he learns the hard way not to be so trusting.
Karen Murphy’s production design and Oliver Garcia’s costumes are unbelievably resplendent. No detail is spared to transport the audience to the height of the song, the music and the revolution. The way Williams’ camera maneuvers around Joseph as he plays the violin is exquisite. Even the hair and makeup are tight. There are no loose threads, nothing is out of place, and the production struggled to find someone to style Kelvin Harrisonson Jr, who is often missing from the sets of movies with black leads. Robinson’s script is sometimes on the nose, but she doesn’t make him into a likeable character, which is refreshing.
The performance is in top form, but the standouts are Harrison and Boynton. Harrison is a revelation and gets better with every performance. He chooses his projects with such care and consideration that he navigates Hollywood on his own terms. Boyton shapes his version of Marie Antionette as the perfect Karen, very self-absorbed and anti-alliance. It is her best work to date.
Gentleman it is a lesson in humility that we sometimes get in our own way. Joseph did what he wanted to do and paid the price. He is abandoned by all the white people the man covets, which crushes his ego. Joseph Bologne was told to strive for perfection (Whiteness), and when he does, the door is slammed in his face. That is white supremacy in a nutshell. However, from the fight he gains autonomy and dignity and he uses his music not to entertain white people but as a form of rebellion.