While Final Cut is mildly enjoyable, it’s not as good as One Cut of the Dead and feels too close to the original text.
Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead is one of the most interesting filmmaking exercises of the past decade. While far from perfect, the movie’s meta-narrative is insanely fun. It starts with an unbroken 37-minute take in which actors who play in a zombie movie get attacked by real zombies. After that, we find out how the movie was made from the director’s perspective, and that’s where the real joy of watching the making of an amateur production gets seen.
What’s most impressive about One Cut of the Dead is how the film employed non-professional actors and that Ueda shot the entire thing in eight days. It was one of the biggest successes of the Midnight Madness festival crowd and led Academy Award-winning director Michel Hazanavicius to remake the movie in French with Coupez!
Known in North America as Final Cut, the movie has finally been released in the United States this week after a 2022 Cannes Film Festival Premiere, and it’s as faithful as you would think a French remake of One Cut of the Dead would be. But it’s also perhaps too faithful and greatly suffers from wanting to achieve a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the movie so as not to alienate fans of the original cult classic.
Final Cut is Too Faithful And Misses an Identity
Hazanavicius does try to infuse an even bigger meta-narrative by having Yoshiko Takehara reprise her role from the original movie as Ms. Matsuda, One Cut of the Dead’s fictional producer. In Final Cut, the movie is set in a world where One Cut of the Dead premiered in Japan and became a worldwide sensation. Filmmaker Rémi (Romain Duris) is tasked by his producer colleague Mounir (Lyes Salem) to remake One Cut of the Dead for a French audience, but he cannot change anything from the original script, including keeping the Japanese names of the characters.
He assembles a team of well-known actors, including acclaimed Cannes star Raphaël (Finnegan Oldfield) and influencer Ava (Matilda Lutz), who are teased as the film’s main stars. But after an incident occurs, Rémi is forced to star in the movie alongside his wife, Nadia (Bérénice Bejo), who retired from acting after her method techniques endangered the film productions she starred in, alongside putting her family deep in debt. The goal is to pull off a live stream of their movie, shot in a 37-minute-long unbroken take.
Final Cut – Official Trailer
In hindsight, Hazanavicius and cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg pull off the unbroken take successfully, but you can see where the scene is digitally stitched together, compared to how Ueda and cinematographer Tsuyoshi Sone make it all feel like one continuous take (the end-credits scene show how key moments of that sequence were pulled off, and it’s terrifically impressive). The non-professional aspect of the movie worked in its favor because the filmmakers had to improvise and use amateur filmmaking techniques to sell the sequence, whilst Hazanavicius emulates amateur techniques with a bigger budget. So it doesn’t have the same value and isn’t as creative.
There are a few neat camera tricks, including following the characters by pushing a wheelchair with the camera operator on it, but that’s about it. The rest is an almost carbon copy of the original’s tracking shot, with a couple of drawn-out jokes that don’t work and the replacement of the original’s POM! slide with Krav Maga techniques. That’s a fatal flaw because Ueda consistently feeds the viewer’s mind with elements we will eventually see make the “one-take” and the POM! slide was integral to one of the movie’s best running gags.
Final Cut‘s Professional Setting Reduces Its Impact
It also doesn’t help that Final Cut employs well-established French actors to replace the original’s non-professional players. Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, and Matilda Lutz are big names (Bejo was nominated for an Academy Award for Hazanavicius’ The Artist) and can’t sell playing “unprofessionally.” Are they having fun? Sure! Is Lutz the film’s highlight? Of course, but their performances don’t hold up to the same level as the performances from the original actors, where they knew they were starring in something special.
A bigger budget does mean Hazanavicius evolving on the gore, which leads to the film’s excessively violent scenes being even more bloody and squirm-inducing, with lots and lots of vomit being used for comedic purposes. If you’re squeamish, you might not enjoy it very much, but I’ll admit I laughed on several occasions, even knowing what was going to come. Final Cut also expands upon the making of the one-take by adding a new character to the mix, Fatih (Smoking Causes Coughing‘s Jean-Pascal Zadi), the movie’s composer, who attempts in vain to add some music to the movie but can’t follow the one-take’s multiple improvisational aspects. Zadi is always funny, and it’s no exception here.
It’s just a shame that Hazanavicius takes very little liberties with the storyline and doesn’t give One Cut of the Dead its proper “French” version. Yes, it’s mildly enjoyable to watch because the original movie is highly enjoyable, but it feels too close to the original that it never finds its own identity. Hazanavicius is a talented filmmaker, despite what some of his detractors say. His OSS 117 riffs are incredible, and The Artist propelled him to Hollywood fame. He could’ve absolutely made something great out of One Cut of the Dead. Unfortunately, he chose not to.
Final Cut is now playing in select theaters. What did you think of Final Cut? Is One Cut of the Dead the superior film? Let us know what you thought of Final Cut in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on social media!