Friday, July 7, 2023

Final Cut: An Unconventional French Tribute to Z Movies

 By José Alberto Hermosillo 

“Final Cut” is a frenetic dark comedy about a film crew becoming zombies while making a Z movie. 
What seems like a clumsy French parody of the Japanese “cult film” “One Cut of the Death” by Shin’ichirô Ueda becomes a massive tribute to “Z movies” by Academy Award-winning director Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist” and “The Search.”).
Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius. Photo by film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. 
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022

In “Final Cut,” Michel Hazanavicius pays tribute to those who tirelessly work in the film industry. Their skills and resourcefulness keep the essence of the filmmaking process alive. The team is comprised of technicians, producers, actors, and those who make movies even without dialogue. The relationship between the filmmakers and the film itself is a symbiotic and challenging collaborative process, even if the product is a complete disaster. According to the director, it is heroic to make a movie, even if it is a flop.
In 2020, during the first lockdown, Hazanavicius wanted to work on a comedy when the German producers, who had secured the rights to the Japanese “cult classic,” brought him the golden opportunity to remake that successful box office Asian flick in France. The idea was brilliant and perfect for what he wanted to do during the pandemic. Hazanavicius saw in the original some weird situations that inspired him to juxtapose these images with his French reality. You can start with a script based on a book and, in this case, based on a movie. The original writing was challenging, and adapting to a European version was even more difficult.
In the movie, as in real life, some problems arise, such as shooting an extended scene with a full memory card without knowing it. The original Japanese director said he understood his movie even more while watching the French version.
The first "one-shot" sequence is 33 minutes long. It took much preparation, from drawing the storyboard through many rehearsals with the actors, cinematographer, props, makeup, sound, and the rest of the crew, until everything came together. They used 54 cameras to get every angle and every actor's actions and reactions right. They shot that specific sequence four times in four days until the final take was achieved, and still, it was not that great, according to the director.

To differentiate between the movie and the making of the film, the director used various techniques in post-production, such as color saturation, different timing, and texture, so the audience could follow both storylines easily.
Michael Hazanavicius’ career fluctuates from experimental and quirky films to the most formal and academic productions. “Final Cut” is a very personal movie about making a movie. The question always arises as to why the director wanted to place himself in such a problematic situation of presenting an embarrassing project to the masses. He said that, in his defense, his films are always made in joyful sets with positive energy.

Zombie movies are fascinating and profitable. From big Hollywood productions like “World War Z” with Brad Pitt to more independent releases like “Zombieland” and Jim Jarmusch's "The Dead Don't Die," which also competed for the Palmer d'Or at Cannes in 2019. The 2018 French zombie thriller "The Night Eats the World/ La Nuit a dévoré le mondé" depicts a contemporary world where zombies invade Paris.
Other worldwide cult classics are George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” and the British production “28 Days Later” by Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Trainspotting.”). There is also the low-budget British high school zombie musical “Anna and the Apocalypse,” which I loved. 
Other Asian countries have substantial input in the Zombie genre, from “Train to Busan” to the 2016 Zombie Pandemic South Korean animation “Seoul Station.” One of my favorite Korean genre movies is the extraordinary production “Peninsula.” It is also considered the best Korean Zombie movie, “The Wailing.” 
The Japanese productions have their fan base as well; “Versus,” “Miss Zombie,” “Helldriver,” and "One Cut of the Dead" are among the most popular. Highly recommendable is the new apocalyptic Taiwanese zombie thriller “Sadness.”
In recent years, American television series about zombies have been widely successful. "The Last of Us," with Pedro Pascal, just received 24 Emmy nominations. And "The Walking Dead" ran for eleven seasons.
Romain Duris. Photo by film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. 
Copyright © Festival in LA

In "Final Cut," all the performers did a hell of a job. Chameleonic French actor Romain Duris (“Eiffel,” “The Confession,” “Populaire,” “The New Girlfriend”) plays Rémi, the hectic movie director, and also Higurashi in the zombie movie within a movie. Duris' work is synonymous with dedication, perseverance, quality, and excellence.

Michel Hazanavicius’ wife and Oscar nominee actress Bérénice Bejo play Nadia and Natsumi, respectively. Michel confessed that working with his wife on many projects is easy because they know each other well. She keeps it professional; in the set, she knows he is the boss. He does not congratulate her on a good performance. He likes to give confidence to all of his actors. Their daughter Simone Hazanavicius and her friend round out the terrific cast.
Michel Hazanavicius' next film is an animated feature set during a war, written by his parents’ friend, titled "The Most Precious Cargo." I can not wait to see what this incredibly inventive director will do in animation next.
“Final Cut” was selected as the opening piece of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, where critics trashed the movie without mercy. According to Mr. Hazanavicius, brutal exposure to the international press was intentional. 
The satirical story presented in "Final Cut" is not for everyone, but those who like dark comedies, like me, can feel heaven watching a cinematic gory feast.
Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius and film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. 
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022


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