There is nothing film directors like more than to make movies about their own craft. From classics like Fellini’s 8 1/2, Truffaut’s La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night) and Singin’ in the Rain to more recent examples like The Artist, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Fabelmans, the romance and realities of filmmaking have stirred the creative juices of many a great and not-so-great director. Now the multitalented actor/director/screenwriter Cédric Kahn has brought out, just a few months after Le Procès Goldman, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Making Of, a whimsical and often very funny movie that shows the stresses and compromises needed to create, finish and produce a film.
Making Of functions on a number of levels. Ostensibly about a film being made about a group of workers who take over their factory after its owners threaten to move it overseas, it soon becomes closely tied with the struggles of the lugubrious and increasingly frazzled director Simon (beautifully played by Denis Podalydès) to keep his actors and crew together while faced with the demands of the movie’s producers and the increasingly fragile financial state of the project. At the same time, Simon calls on one of the extras, Joseph (a lovely performance by Stefan Crepon) – who himself has the burning ambition to leave his menial job in a pizzeria and become a movie director – asking him to follow Simon around with a camera to shoot a “making of” documentary.
Unlike many solemnly self-regarding movies, Making Of is humorous and self-deprecatory. While Simon’s own affectations are often sent up, especially when the producers declare that they want him to change the tragic conclusion of his original screenplay to a more commercially viable happy ending, much of the film’s comedy comes from the performances of Jonathan Cohen as the preening star of the factory drama and Xavier Beauvois as the infuriating producer who disappears and becomes uncontactable once the going gets tough on set.
Yet Kahn manages at the same time to add poignancy to the film, not only through his exploration of the inequality between factory workers and owners, and between crew and producers, but also in the way he treats Simon’s marital problems and Joseph’s determined efforts to make the most of his few opportunities. If the growing love affair between Joseph and lead actress Nadia (Souheila Yacoub) seems a rather too-conventional addition to the plot line, many interesting questions are posed on the consequences of staying true to one’s beliefs and the occasional need to temper one’s idealism with resigned acceptance of the demands of daily life. I won’t reveal it, but the film’s ending could itself (presumably in a knowing way) represent just the kind of compromise that the producers of the factory movie were demanding.
Coming in at just under two hours, Making Of could easily have been pruned – a few scenes appear to be restatements of ones that came before – but overall, it shows what an interesting director Kahn can be and has a uniformly excellent cast.Favorite