Review by Sean Boelman
Cédric Kahn is a prolific filmmaker, already having had a film premiere at Cannes earlier this year, and now bringing his next movie — the metafictional Making Of — to Venice. While his latest work has some clear strengths, its lack of a sense of humor and overzealousness to create something hyper-realistic hold it back from being as compelling as it should have been.
Making Of follows the crew of a film depicting an uprising of factory workers, as behind the scenes drama ensues when there is a debate over the film’s content and messaging. In an era when art is increasingly being censored for political reasons, this premise seems like ripe ground for a fascinating discussion on some of these ideas. Unfortunately, Kahn's approach — while noble and having a finger on the pulse of what it means to be a filmmaker — lacks a firm grasp of how to engage the audience.
There is a definite political undercurrent to Making Of, largely as a result of the film-within-a-film being a social justice film. Much of the commentary is direct and worn on its sleeve, for better or worse. The best portions of the movie are those in which it juxtaposes the actions of the filmmaker protagonist against the topic he is satirizing, making for a more effective commentary.
If Kahn’s goal was simply to create an authentic representation of what it is like to be on a movie set, he succeeded. Viewers will be immersed in the goings on of this film crew — with all of its exciting moments and a lot of its mundanity. And frankly, who really wants to see the bureaucratic side of filmmaking?
Ultimately, the novelty of the movie’s ideas and meta structure wear off rather quickly. There’s no denying that the film is shot well, and that the cinematography and editing do a great job of making viewers feel like they are on this film set. The opening sequence is also phenomenal, with more energy in those ten minutes alone than the rest of the movie combined. If only it had been able to maintain this kineticism, it could have become one of the definitive films about filmmaking.
One of the biggest issues with Making Of is that it doesn’t develop its characters well. We are supposed to get acquainted with the crew members through their relationships with one another, and to an extent, we do. However, it’s hard to identify with a slightly tyrannical filmmaker, and the other potential protagonist — the aspiring director shooting the behind-the-scenes footage — feels relegated to the sidelines (much like an actual BTS guy would be).
Because of the movie’s commitment to being firmly focused on realism, the acting isn’t particularly flashy. The only person who hogs the spotlight at any point is Denis Podalydès, and even he often feels quite restrained in his role. Compared to other satirical movies about movies, Making Of is trying to be more quietly angry, but it fails to be as engaging.
There are a lot of parts of Making Of that work quite well, and it should be lauded for its ability to depict the chaotic mundanity of a film set. Unfortunately, reality is not always the most interesting — and for this satire to have been fully compelling, there needed to have been a more heightened sense to the whole affair.
Making Of premiered at the 2023 Venice Film Festival.