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Reviews of the Lab Young Critics

Les Arcs Opening Film: "Making Of"

By Vinzent Wesselmann

David Koskas

In his eighth feature film, Making Of, which officially opened the 15th Les Arcs Film Festival, Cédric Kahn examines the work behind movie magic in a satirical comedy drama. Simon (Denis Podalydès) is shooting the final scenes of his feature film, based on the true story of a failed factory worker strike, when he learns that his producer sent key investors a wrong version of the script: one which ends in victory, rather than defeat. Once the investors learn of this mishap, they fear the ending will be less marketable, and threaten to pull one million euros in funds unless Simon compromises. He refuses, and chaos ensues. 

Filming the frantic discussions of the film team is Joseph (Stephan Crepon), a young local extra and aspiring director responsible for creating the "making of” video for Simon’s film. When tensions arise between the arrogant actor Alain, played by the hilarious Jonathan Cohen, and his co-star Nadia (Souheila Yacoub), Simon realizes his lack of funds has turned him into the stingy factory boss of his own feature film. As the search for funding grows increasingly desperate, Simon wonders if the better film might not be the feature film itself but rather Joseph’s “making of”.

Making Of pulls the viewer between three interlocking narratives, each stacked within the other like Russian dolls. The film frequently moves between cinematic shots of the feature film, behind-the-scenes footage captured by Joseph, and the drama that happens off set, cleverly obscuring which dramas are real and which are performed. This illusion effect is a staple of the “film within a film” subgenre, but Making Of goes a step further by playing with the genre itself. Whereas Simon’s feature film is an intellectual drama, the off-scene interactions are largely comedic and take upon the feel of a reality show when captured by Joseph’s camera. Quarrels about “authentic” acting and the marketability of true stories move the narrative forward, all coming to a head when the actors confront the film crew over their sudden budget cuts. Joseph films the ensuing revolt, a parody of the feature film’s final scene, until his camera is pushed to the floor in the brawl. It leads the viewer to wonder: Are all dramas entertainment?

Cedric Kahn seems to think so. The film’s most touching moments occur neither in the feature film nor in the “making-of", but in the off-set scenes between actors, film crew, and producers. Joseph falls in love with Nadia and shows her around his hometown, which is not only the site of Simon’s film but also of the actual strike that inspired it. Their own romance proves much more complex and intriguing than the lustful affair Nadia must perform in the feature, especially since she has an abusive yet “good-hearted” boyfriend back home. Meanwhile, Simon’s nightly video calls with his ex-wife reveal he is struggling to keep his personal life together despite the confidence he displays while directing on set. When does cinema end and life begin?

On the surface, Making Of is another love-letter to filmmaking which seeks to prove that life’s most important stories are not the ones we see on screen. Yet it is less about the movies we make than the stories we tell -- to ourselves, to our families, and to the public. Kahn’s characters all have roles they must play in life in addition to the ones they play on set: Simon as a stable ex-husband, Nadia as a stand-by-your-man girlfriend, and Joseph as a flexible worker with sufficient income. These are convenient fictions that smooth over rough truths, not unlike the marketable ending which Simon’s investors want produced. But at what cost? Making Of displays the raw beauty and captivating drama hidden behind the palatable stories we tell one another, finding entertainment in the tension between what we are and what we perform. 

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