With “Final Cut,” Oscar-winning filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius has to convince audiences that he’s a very bad director. At least for the first 20 minutes or so of the movie within a movie. You see, “Final Cut,” a remake of the 2017 Japanese cult favorite, “One Cut of the Dead,” initially unspools as a low-budget zombie film, one produced with few frills and even less talent. It later pulls back to explore the lives of the director, crew members and actors behind that zombie feature in greater detail revealing the behind-the-scenes farce that results in a movie that is, how to put it, not very good.
“It was weird,” says Hazanavicius. “I spent 30 years trying to improve things and make things better, and I had to do the opposite. I had to make something that was not good. It’s a failed film. The director is trying to make a B movie and things are happening and he’s doing a C movie or a D movie.”
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Despite that questionable pedigree, Hazanavicius will premiere “Final Cut” on the opening night of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, probably the most prestigious gathering of cinephiles in the world. It’s the same setting where he first unveiled “The Artist,” the 2011 silent comedy that went on to win the Oscars for best picture and for Hazanavicius’s direction. “The Artist” kicked off to a thunderous standing ovation. Hazanavicius thinks the initial reception for “Final Cut” could be much different, at least until audiences catch on that the movie is in on the joke.
“I am prepared to accept that some people may boo during the first 20 minutes,” says Hazanavicius. “That would be great. Then the movie has the audience change their feeling about what they saw. What you feel about the people who made the movie is way more important than what you first think. I love the path that the audience takes.”
“Final Cut” was initially going to take a much different road to screens, without a Cannes debut as its destination. Instead, the movie was initially intended to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but after COVID cases spiked and Sundance went all-digital, Hazanavicius and the producers pulled the film from contention.
“It’s not a movie you want to watch alone on your computer,” says Hazanavicius. “For a world premiere we wanted a theater and lots 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 a theater and you’re not in your living room and your children are doing something or your husband and your wife is asking you about something.”
Even though the zombie movie that the “Final Cut” characters make isn’t a sophisticated affair, it came with technical challenges. The whole shoot is intended to be done in a single take. That meant that the whole sequence had to be rigidly choreographed. That required five weeks of rehearsal to get right.
“I’m not Gaspar Noé or Alfonso Cuarón, so it was a real technical challenge,” says Hazanavicius.
After “The Artist” hit big, Hollywood came calling. But despite offers — including a Disney film called “Bob the Musical” and a comedy called “Will” — nothing panned out for Hazanavicius, who has instead chosen to work in France.
“Hollywood made some offers, but the process was very long,” says Hazanavicius. “The movies could have been great, but the situation here in France is very different. If I want to make a movie here, I write it, I ask for some money, I rewrite to fit the budget, and then I shoot it. I’m not used to the Hollywood process.”
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