In the excellent comedy of manners, A Man at the Level, director Laurent Tirard (Le Petit Nicolas, Asterix et Obélix: au service de Sa Majesté) knew how to use with rare mastery all the tricks of special effects to significantly reduce the size of his hero played by Jean Dujardin in love here with the actress Virginie Efira. This film, released in 2016, continues to flourish on Netflix, which happily introduced it into its catalog.
Like his illustrious predecessor, the magician-filmmaker Georges Méliès (1861-1938), Laurent Tirard, with the help of scientific cinema, therefore revisited all the image techniques to achieve this tour de force: to make the spectators believe that an actor measuring 1.82 m tall could pass on screen as a short seducer of around 1.36 m tall.
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As the good director of actors that he is, the filmmaker first relied on the talent of his acrobats. In an interview with our colleagues from BFMTV, Virginie Efira explained how during the replies, she and Alexandre alias Jean Dujardin played with the direction of their gazes: “I looked down while Jean looked up”. Simple to say but not so easy to execute, let's face it.
The staging and the use of props also provided a lot of service. The use of a platform to raise the actress or the fact of moving on a chair on wheels facilitated the impression of difference in size necessary for the mechanics of this romance which sees a pretty woman, Alexandra, fall in love with an Alexander full of charm but of greatness, in the literal sense, restricted to say the least.
Beyond the know-how of the acrobats, the cameramen and of course the conductor on set, Laurent Tirard, special effects made it possible to play with perspective. Particularly the use of a green background greatly helped the editing aces during the post-production phase. In this artificial background, as when drawing, it becomes easier to play with proportions.
A final trick of the camera illusionist will have finally been revealed, like a fiercely guarded trade secret, by Laurent Tirard at the end of the film. Still drawing inspiration from George Méliès, who was particularly fond of trompe l'oeil - we cannot forget The Man with the Rubber Head -, the filmmaker enlarged the pieces and unearthed the superimposition processes.
Also read: Homage to Yves Rodallec, Lautner’s irreplaceable cameraman
Artisanal techniques, digital reassembly, acting... A Man Up to the Level is not only a very good comedy of manners but also a collective cinematic feat. Yves Rodallec, the cinematographer of Georges Lautner, director of Belmondo's "tyrolean" stunt in Flic ou Voyou, used to say, "a good film is the sum of the talents of the actors and technicians on the tray". In their own way, Laurent Tirard, Virginie Efira and Jean Dujardin paid tribute to these essential pioneers of the seventh art.