Wednesday 9 November 2022

FINAL CUT review

During the production of a low budget zombie film, the cast and crew are faced with a real, unexpected zombie outbreak that wipes them out one by one. As the camera continues to capture the action in one single unbroken take, the film's director (Romain Duris) inexplicably steers his leading actors (Matilda Lutz, Bérénice Bejo) into danger, with one simple instruction to the camera crew - whatever happens, keep filming. But in amongst the mania of the shoot, it's clear that there's more going on than meets the eye.

From Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar winning director of 2011's The Artist, Final Cut is the French language remake of the much beloved 2017 Japanese comedy-horror One Cut of the Dead. On paper, the mere existence of this film sounded like a bad idea to audiences used to seeing slick, sanitised Hollywood remakes of foreign language films. But does Final Cut - still foreign language, just a different one - have more to offer? In a way, yes - but also in a way, it offers exactly the same as the original.

Arriving with great word of mouth from its Cannes debut (where it opened the festival) and a crowd pleasing screening at this year's FrightFest, it's nigh on impossible to talk about Final Cut and its predecessor without revealing what some might consider major spoilers. In fact, the above trailer kind of gives away the whole premise of the film, if hard to piece together out of context. But, without going into detail about the intricacies of the plot, Final Cut starts with a single 30 minute long shot that works as its own film-within-the-film. From there? Well, let's just say that much like zombies did post-28 Days Later, there's a dramatic change of pace.

The most curious thing about Final Cut is how differing audience will react to the experience of watching it. If you're going in cold having not seen Shin'ichirô Ueda's original, the first half hour may be difficult to judge fairly, and may even seem amateurish and just plain bad. But to give up before the curtain is pulled back on the real story would be robbing yourself of the true joy it has to offer. A film-making puzzle that Hazanavicius has dialled-up on, even more so than the Japanese version, you have to see it through in order for it all to make sense. But there will also be a large percentage of the audience who have seen the original, attracted to this out of some morbid curiosity and needing an answer to the question of why on Earth Hazanavicius - whose work flits from the refined physical comedy of his OSS 117 films (featuring his Oscar winning lead actor for The Artist, Jean Dujardin) to weightier work like Jean-Luc Godard biography, Redoutable -would dare remake such a universally admired film?

Much like Romain Duris's character does as he inserts himself into the action of the film he's directing, acting in and taking wildly off script (don't think about it too much), Final Cut runs gamely into the danger zone of being too meta, placing a hat on top of a hat on top of a human pyramid. Playfully asking the question within the film that just because it worked in Japan it doesn't mean it'll work there, all of the major plot beats of One Cut of the Dead have survived, along with the casting of the delightfully cheery Yoshiko Takehara, reprising her role from the original. Duris does great work as Remi, the journeyman director-for-hire who refuses to cut corners and compromise his vision, even when faced with mounting production issues and a renegade cast member wielding an axe (Bérénice Bejo). He's a great facsimile for Takayuki Hamatsu in the original version, as well as serving as a thinly veiled stand-in for screenwriter/director Michel Hazanavicius himself via the touching father/daughter plot line that runs through the film, reaching a figuratively and literally uplifting moment between Remi and daughter Romy (to add to the metatextuality, played by Hazanavicius's daughter Simone) by the film's climax.

Unavoidably for fans of the original, almost of the film's surprises are nullified by their repetition, whilst also   losing some of the charm in the translation (sadly, "Pom!" didn't make the cut), but Final Cut still works as a curio and love letter to the filmmaking process that will work for audiences keen to see how the film's meta premise survives when passed through the (albeit unconventional) remake machine. For newcomers, as plot A from Hazanavicius's film spills over into plot B and turns into a mega-meta-zombie mash-up, there's enough gore and gung ho spirit to make Final Cut well worth your time.



Signature Entertainment presents Final Cut on Digital Platforms 7th November

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