In Final Cut, Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius has to convince audiences that he’s a really bad director. At least for the first 20 minutes or so of the movie within the movie. You see, Final Cut, a remake of Japan’s 2017 favorite, One Cut of the Dead, which initially appeared as a low-budget zombie movie, was made with little frills and even less talent. He later retreats to explore the lives of the director, crew members, and actors behind this zombie feature in greater detail that reveals the behind-the-scenes farce that produces a not-so-good movie, and how it was set.
“It was weird,” Hazanavicius says. “I’ve spent 30 years trying to make things better and make things better, and I had to do the opposite. I had to make something not so good. It’s a failed movie. The director is trying to make a second-rate movie and things happen while he’s shooting a C or D movie.”
Despite that questionable pedigree, Hazanavicius will premiere “Final Cut” on the opening night of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, probably the world’s most famous gathering of film fans. It’s the same place he first revealed “The Artist,” the 2011 silent comedy that won the Academy Award for Best Picture and for directing Hazanavicius. The film “The Artist” began with a standing ovation. Hazanavicius believes that the initial reception for “Final Cut” could be much different, at least until the audience realizes that the film is in a joke.
“I’m willing to accept that some people might boo during the first 20 minutes,” Hazanavicius says. “That would be great. Then the movie changes the audience’s feeling about what they saw. How you feel about the people who made the movie is a lot more important than you first think. I love the path the audience is taking.”
Final Cut was initially going a completely different route off the screens, without debuting at Cannes as its destination. Instead, the film was initially slated to screen at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but after COVID cases spiked and Sundance went fully digital, Hazanavicius and the producers withdrew the film from competition.
“It’s not a movie you want to watch alone on your computer,” Hazanavicius says. “For a world premiere we wanted a theater and a lot of people in the room. It’s a comedy and because of the structure of the movie you need to be patient. It’s easier to be patient when you’re stuck in the theater and you’re not in your living room and your kids are doing something or your husband and wife ask you about something.”
Although the zombie movie Final Cut is not complicated, it comes with technical challenges. All shooting is meant to be done in one take. This means that the entire sequence has to be modeled rigorously. It took five weeks of training to get it right.
“I’m not Gaspar Noé or Alfonso Cuarón, so it was a real technical challenge,” Hazanavicius says.
After the “artist” achieved great success, Hollywood came as an advocate. But despite offers – including Disney’s “Bob the Musical” and a comedy “Will” – nothing was found for Hazanavicius, who chose to act in France instead.
“Hollywood put in a few shows, but the process was too long,” Hazanavicius says. “The films could have been great, but the situation here in France is completely different. If I want to make a movie here, I write it, ask for some money, rewrite it to fit the budget, and then shoot it. I’m not used to the Hollywood process.”