CANNES FESTIVAL: not beating around the bush, “Final Cut” (“Coupez!”) was insane and brilliant

CANNES, France — I have an ear-to-ear smile plastered on my face as I just watched the trailer for “Coupez!” the next-day refresher after taking in the movie last night here in Cannes, where it opened the 75th edition of the festival. At the screening I laughed and I laughed and I laughed again. Because the film is brilliant and handled with maestria by Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) and it’s not afraid to be an honest-to-goodness comedy, one that shows the mishap potential of a film set. But “Cut” might also be interpreted as a humorous ode to cinema. In “Cut” a director and his crew shoot a B-movie (it’s about zombies but that’s secondary, almost) in one single thirty-minute take and things go south, there is first-degree, second-degree, it’s a movie-within-a-movie, people break the fourth wall—non-stop laughter!

“Coupez!” or “Final cut!” in the original French, is a remake of a film by Shinichiro Ueda that came out in 2017 called “One cut of the dead.”

The director and cast and crew are incompetent, egotistical or they have anger issues, for some, or they’re just trying to do their job and come up with inventive ways to circumvent the various hurdles actors unwittingly place in their way–they’re heroic in this regard.

It’s going to be difficult to further describe this movie without giving away spoilers.

The film’s director, Michel Hazanavicius, was last in Cannes in 2011 with the aforementioned “The Artist,” for which his lead actor Jean Dujardin would later win a Best Actor academy awards that following February in Los Angeles, to say nothing of the numerous other awards the film garnered (BFI, César awards, etc.).

“Final Cut” is an ode to cinema, but not just: Hazanavicius also pays tribute to the actors, film characters, special effects, make-up and music crew. At the heart of the film is a director, Romain Bouillon, played by Romain Duris, who is as crazy as he is committed to making his movie and as ambitious as he is vulnerable and sneering. Ineptitude, fear and egos get in the way and Bouillon loses his religion trying to get his actors to do what he wants them to do–”cry for real!” Show fear, I want to see real fear!”

I’ve never seen a disappointing performance out of Duris. Bérénice Béjo’s character, Bouillon’s wife (she’s married to Hazanavicius in real life) used to be an actress but walked away from it after she developed a tendency to take her roles too seriously (you see how this would play out in a zombie movie, don’t you?).

Much has been said about directing a remake of a genre film that cost $10,000 for eight times more money (“Final Cut” ran upwards of $10M to make), you’re taking away from the guerrilla filmmaking ethos of the initial film directed by Ueda. It’s a credible argument, I suppose, but probably best not to linger too long here, in the age of relativism there seems to be a plausible pro and con in–nearly–every argument.

During lockdown Hazanavicius was putting some ideas together for a film when he got a call from producer Vincent Maraval (he cofounded WildBunch, one of France’s top-tier labels for independent cinema) telling him that he had just secured the rights to remake “One cut of the dead.”

What’s especially enjoyable about this film is that by showing us what happens on a film set Hazanavicius makes usactively participate in it. When actors break the fourth wall, we’re in cahoots, bona fide accomplices. This enriches the movie-going experience. “Final Cut” was thoroughly fun to watch. Can’t wait to go and see it again.