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  • Reviewed at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival

‘Zombie comedy’ is not a descriptor that fills many prospective viewers with delight these days, but nobody seems to have told Michel Hazanavicius. Opening the 75th Festival de Cannes, Final Cut is a painfully protracted meta spin on a Japanese cult classic, One Cut of the Dead. Crass, self-satisfied and often irritating, it has a handful of amusing moments that can’t make up for its its utter sense of pointlessness.

For the first half an hour, Hazanavicius plays a trick on the audience, showing us what turns out to be a film within a film – and a very bad one. We see what appears to be a manic film director (Romain Duris) on the set of his handheld zombie flick, arguing with his two leads (Finnegan Oldfield and Matilda Lutz), when it becomes apparent he has intentionally triggered a curse to make his film more authentic with real zombies. The French actors have Japanese names, in a strange, ill-suited homage to the original film; the nausea-inducing handheld camera is amateurish; the actors appear to be improvising to no particular end, with sloshes of red viscera flying in all directions.

Grégory Gadebois as Philippe and Matilda Lutz as Ava in Final Cut

Just when you think you can endure no more, Hazanavicius expands out to the larger story: one of jobbing filmmaker Remi (still Duris, now crumpled and perennially fed up) and how he was hired to direct a live-streamed single-take remake of One Cut of the Dead. As the film unfolds the chaotic circumstances in the weeks leading up to the shoot, Hazanavicius shoehorns in broad swipes at racism, bullying and sexism on film sets, albeit with as much grace as one of his lumbering zombies. When we return to the incoherent resulting movie, its strange visual choices or fumbles suddenly make sense.

Look at the effort it takes to make a film, Hazanavicius reminds us – even a bad one. Feel the fear! There’s something smug about the film’s display of (fake) blood, sweat, tears and vomit to tell a ‘geddit’ joke about film production as a horror show in and of itself.

For any of its funnier moments (what seemed like an artistic abstraction being a result of the cameraperson getting his belt loop caught on a door), Final Cut ultimately conveys a contradictory, wishy-washy sentiment about filmmaking: artistic integrity matters; stand up for the film you want to make; but see how difficult it is to make a film – don’t be so quick to criticise hacks. Its profoundly goofy needle drops (Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis) and asides (“Fuck Tarantino”) are as clumsy as the bad film we see being made. Final Cut is the kind of movie so convinced of its own cleverness that it can’t see just how gimmicky and forgettable it is.

Sight and Sound, Summer 2022

Sight and Sound celebrates its 90th anniversary in style. Plus: the Cannes bulletin, Pedro Almodóvar, Ukrainian cinema, The Innocents and Edgar Wright interviewing Daniels.

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