Final Cut (2022)

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius (screenplay), Shinichiro Ueda (original story), Royichi Wada (original story)
Cast: Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Finnegan Oldfield, Matilda Lutz, Simone Hazanavicius
Producers: Brahim Chioua, Alain de la Mata, Noémie Devide, Michel Hazanavicius, Vincent Maraval, John Penotti
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematographer: Jonathan Ricquebourg
Editor: Mickael Dumontier
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 110mins
Year: 2022

What’s the story: Director-for-hire Remi (Duris) is helming a low budget one-take zombie movie, when a real zombie outbreak occurs. But, that’s only the beginning of the story.

What’s the verdict: The 2018 Japanese zombie flick One Cut of the Dead was the little engine that could. A Tokyo film school project produced for just $17,500, it delivered the excitement, humour, and warmth of a George A. Romero Dead film. Without ripping him off wholesale as countless others were (and are) content to do. The film packed out that year’s FrightFest screening, and public demand led to more screenings being added.

So a remake was never going to work. Right? Not quite. Granted, Final Cut’s widescreen visuals and genuine movie stars in the shape of Romain Duris as the hapless director and The Artist’s Bernice Bejo as his understanding wife give this more polish than the Japanese original. As does writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, who nabbed himself an Oscar for The Artist and has a habit of making movies about movie making. 2017’s Redoubtable was about irascible French director Jean-Luc Godard, 2020’s The Lost Prince is based around a magical movie studio.

The opening seems to confirm these fears of a glossy do-over. Sticking closely to the original, it presents that haphazard one-take zombie film. What charmed in Japanese seems forced here, and unwanted associations with Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot Psycho remake sneak into the mind. Laughs are there, but the deja-vu hangs heavy.

Then, as per the original, the film jumps back to the start of the project, and finds its footing. Wisely going double-meta, Final Cut is pitched as a remake of One Cut of the Dead, heaping more hassles onto Duris’ kindly director.

“No-one wants to do a botch job,” he says when bemoaning remakes, soon finding himself having to please Japanese backers as well as the local talent and money people. All the vanities, star interference, producer indifference, and quirks of the cast and crew follow the beats of that first film. Hazanavicius knows when a good joke is worth repeating and liberally borrows from the original for laughs, but earns the giggles. The reason why the cast have retained the Japanese names and plot points will also raise a smile.

When taking one step back to go behind the scenes on the day of the shoot, the film captures the energy, fun, and lovely community spirit of One Cut of the Dead. Duris and Bejo shed their movie star aura and get stuck into the lo-fi ethos and slapstick. Both are also genuinely affecting as mum and dad to their aspiring filmmaker daughter (Simone Hazanavicius, the director’s daughter). The family connection continues with Bejo, the director’s wife, whose Krav Maga loving method actress is a particular highlight.

Kudos too to Finnegan Oldfield as a pretentiously political leading man, and Revenge’s Matilda Lutz as an actress-influencer whose shortcomings are thrown into sharp relief on the day.

There is a metaphysical argument that One Cut of the Dead reveals the shared humanity in all of us. No matter what country attempts to make this film, the same obstacles appear. Although Russia has already given this film headaches. The original title of “Z” was changed to Coupez! (Cut!) after Russia began using Z as a symbol in its invasion of Ukraine. The film-within-the-film is still titled Z.

Ultimately, Final Cut is more successful than we could have expected, and abides by Remi’s filmmaking mantra: fast, (relatively) cheap, decent.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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