Film Review: Cédric Kahn’s “Making Of”

Film Review: Cédric Kahn’s “Making Of”
Director Cédric Kahn is something of a French Sidney Lumet. His projects vary from film to film, making his career interesting to follow but also leading one to suspect that he doesn’t have a unified vision of things. His last film, Le Procès Goldman (The Goldman Case), was a tough period courtroom drama. Making Of is contemporary, about movie-making and relationships. It’s in a mode that’s more ironic than comic, with skewed, often exaggerated, dramatic situations. In practice this means that half the audience (including yours truly) laughs frequently throughout the film, while the other half takes it as straight-on drama. Denis Podalydés plays a director, Simon, making a film about a workers revolt that happened at a factory in a gritty provincial area. The revolt was more about control over the workplace (autogestion, a notion in vogue in the ‘70s), than a regular strike. One irony is that the production itself is having dire problems with the money men (and women). It’s the proverbial case of the powers-that-be demanding a happy end — to be uplifting and leave the audience with a warm feel-good sensation so that word-of-mouth brings in more customers. But Simon insists on his screenplay and the reality of what actually happened. To keep a trace of negotiations, not only financial but legal, he decides to have a “making-of” documentary made of the production, including sensitive meetings. Cédric Kahn at la Cinémathèque française in September 2023. Photo credit: ManoSolo13241324/ Wikimedia commons Like Lumet, Kahn has a strong feeling for social context and the cutting edge of history. His last film depicted the way radical politics in France took a rocky road to obsolescence via criminal violence. (Just as Lumet’s Serpico showed how the recreational drug economy corrupted New York’s police to the very marrow.) In Making Of we observe the grim shape of once-industrialized areas where workers are eager, even desperate, for jobs as extras in the film recording their own downfall. It’s a young local man unhappy with his lot and interested in a movie career who gets a big break when he’s recruited by Simon to shoot the making-of documentary. Kahn also has a firm, maybe cynical, sense of conventional story-telling, including those happy ends. The making-it story of Joseph (Stefan Crepon), who shoots the making-of, goes hand in hand with his romance with Nadia (Souheila Yacoub), a young actress (in oldspeak: “ingénue”) whose part in the film is her personal break-out. They make an attractive, vivacious couple to satisfy the junior demographic as well as the awww contingent of the oldies. If not entirely cynical, the director, faced with a choice of savvy and proud, invariably chooses the yellow-brick box-office road (Making Of is a smash in France). Poster for the 2023 film “Making of.”

Lead photo credit : Still from "Making Of." Curiosa Films

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.