Quite lengthy for a behind-the-scenes "extra" on a DVD release, this look at "The Valet" seems promising at first - a glimpse at how writer/director Francis Veber works, but it soon dissolves into the usual "isn't he wonderful" crap that is dished out in Pavlovian fashion to a brain-damaged generation of video fans.
When I was a fanatical film buff in the '70s, there were short featurettes, often shown in cinemas, made as promotional pieces to trumpet new films. Not just the biggest Hollywood epics, but I would see little films about such projects as Ken Russell's "The Devils" and Don Siegel's "The Beguiled". It was all part of the studio publicity machine.
With the advent of DVD popularity in the past decade or so, this material has been succeeded by an onslaught of thousands of "making of" fillers about almost every film or video project in existence. So "The Valet" gets the treatment, too, but to what end? I sat through all 46 minutes, hoping against hope to be enlightened, but as usual was merely propagandized. The director of this slop, one Frédéric Chaudier, is sycophantic to a fault, with the only note of potential criticism being the undercurrent that Veber is a taskmaster. But we hear from all the actors that he is simply a comic genius in search of perfection, so that even the 35 or more takes Daniel Auteuil had to suffer through in making "The Closet" were just in service of art. This segment of the documentary smacked of the apologist; I guess we'll be subjected someday to an impassioned defense of Warren Beatty's notorious 50 takes or more nonsense when he shot "Reds".
Making this short featurette so long is the inclusion of dozens & dozens of blown takes, to show why Veber has to repeat things over & over at times. This is strictly filler -I got the point immediately and didn't have to sit through endless crap to cement it. Yes, actors and even the director can suffer a fit of giggles, breaking up take after take, as is shown ad infinitum in a scene of Dany Boon making a noise that beautiful non-actress Alice Taglioni cannot keep from laughing at, spoiling the shot.
The point is that these "making of" junkers are best attuned to the current generation's fascination with special effects and so-called blockbuster "epic" projects. The kind of slop that costs $200 million or so to produce. There is a natural fascination with "how did they do that?" whether it be animating and slicing up thousands of orcs, various CGI/blue screen creations of alien worlds, or just the usual slice & dice gore that passes for horror movies these days.
But the conditioning of this audience to expect extras or feel cheated means that even simple, straightforward projects like "The Valet" get a behind-the-scenes peek. This is idiotic -the actors have to hit their marks and spit out their lines at the proper Veber comedic pace, so let's watch them do it over & over, and then tell us what a genius he is. Too bad that "Le Valet" is among the least successful (in comic or emotional involvement terms) of the 20 or so Veber-scripted films I've seen, and this attention to it is frankly embarrassing to watch.
At one point Veber name drops actor Pierre Mondy in his discussion of comedy, and it reminded me of my favorite of all Veber works, "The Pink Telephone". I saw this now-forgotten film on a visit to New York nearly 35 years ago, and was struck by its heart -this is a moving film based on basically the same sort of "boulevard comedy" material that Veber has mined for his entire career, and Mondy's performance was outstanding. That's the kind of movie that deserves some appreciation or re-evaluation/revival, not substandard fluff like "The Valet".
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