Dir.: Cedric Kahn; Cast: Denis Podalydes. Emmanuelle Bercot, Jonathan Cohen, Stefab Crepon, Souheila Jacoub; France 2023, 118′.
Cedric Kahn’s nostalgic look old-style filmmaking is a cinematic sister to Truffaut’s Day for Night. But while Truffaut celebrated a past full of wistful sentimentality, Kahn takes step back into the 1960s, when factory workers were the heroes (at least for a time), before Godard killed the sub-genre off with Tout Va bien.
Making Of takes us behind the camera to experience the emotional turmoil generated by crew, cast and extras and the addictive nature of filmmaking.
In a drab provincial town in France, director/script writer Simon (Podalydes) is feeling suffocated by his film about workers taking over their factory. And he is right: two young investors withdraw their money after Simon rejects their “Happy Ending” – he wants reality at all costs. Line producer Vivianne (Bercot) wants to cut the budget and is running out of money. The actors, crew and the extras, who live in nearby high rise blocks are faced with a unpalatable choice: forgo wages for the remainder of the shoot, and hope the film coins it at the box office (so the royalties off at least some return) – or walk off the set and let the film die.
And worst of all the male star Alain (Cohen) is a self-centred jerk who dominates the stage during discussions. His partner Oudia, played by Nadia (Yacoub), lives locally with a jealous boyfriend. Joseph (Crepon), a budding screenwriter desperate to make it in films, agrees to shoot a behind-the-scenes on video camera.
Father of two Simon is filmed arguing with his wife in Paris. Their marriage is going down the plughole so he makes a lightening dash to Paris to save it but later collapses in a motorway pharmacy. With so many personal interests involved, can the majority agree to write off their wages for the vague promise of box office success?
Kahn reflects on a time when actors and extras offered their services for free particularly in political films for free – but the star(s) made sure the production went ahead. In this case, there is a clear division between the extras, the “ordinary” actors and the crew and Alain, the box office star. These demarcations run deep: and Kahn reveals the worst of them
“Cinema is a hard drug”, opines Simon, who wants to retire. DoP Patrick Ghirenghelli uses the handheld camera to conjure up the mayhem and thrusts headlong into a world where setbacks are the order of the day. So filmmaking is still a labour of love even though it can often be a dangerous one. Well-observed and highly entertaining. AS
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