Cannes 2022 Opens with a Tribute to the Teamwork of Filmmaking
by Alex Billington
May 17, 2022
It's time again. The 2022 Cannes Film Festival begins this week, and I'm back in the South of France for my 12th time covering this festival. I always love being back, and even with updates and frustrations, there is nowhere else I'd rather be right now. Choosing an Opening Night film for any festival is always a daunting task. This year the Cannes opener is the French zombie comedy called Final Cut (or Coupez! in French), which just so happens to be a French remake of the beloved Japanese indie classic One Cut of the Dead. It was originally set to premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, but when that festival announced they would have to shut down their physical in-person fest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film backed out. I had a feeling it would end up in Cannes instead, and yep, I was right. And here it is! Ready to knock the socks off of the audiences in Cannes and remind them that filmmaking is a collaborative effort.
I first saw Shinichirou Ueda's brilliant One Cut of the Dead during the 2018 Sitges Film Festival in Spain. It was one of those perfect cinematic experiences - I can still remember the exact venue and seat I was sitting in. I was behind on watching the film, as it had already shown around the US, but I'm glad I saw it in Sitges as the audiences there are especially fun. They are so vocal and lively, always laughing loudly and cheering and applauding, and everyone went nuts for it. It's the epitome of a film that plays great with an audience. And so is Final Cut. I first saw this film just before Sundance pulled it by watching a digital screener sent by the PR team. As much as I enjoyed it, I could feel how huge it'd play with an audience watching it together. And the Cannes opening night audience will go nuts for this one, just as everyone did watching One Cut of the Dead when it was showing at festivals a few years ago. Why remake it? Always a good question, but this remake shifts the focus to the filmmaking teamwork rather than focusing on the father-daughter emotions.
Both films are pretty much exactly the same, with an added later of meta-ness in the French remake because they also work in a story of the original Japanese filmmakers being involved in this remake (within the film) on top of things. Final Cut also has the same dual-narrative going between the original zombie comedy in the first half, then flipping to the "how they really made it" second half, with all the same wacky moments. The best new addition is Jean-Pascal Zadi as Fatih - the film's composer who adds an awesome live score soundtrack. I was cracking up every time he was involved and I just wanted to always see more of him. Final Cut has a vibe that's much more about how filmmaking is something that brings people together; everyone on set is involved in creating something memorable. It's clearly a pandemic project shot at an "abandoned" building with a small crew, but that's part of what makes it more intimate and enjoyable to watch. Director Michel Hazanavicius loves making movies about making movies, it is his knack and he's very good at it.
Much like One Cut of the Dead, Hazanavicius also makes Final Cut a family affair - his wife Bérénice Bejo co-stars, along with their daughter Simone Hazanavicius. But by the end I was moved mostly by the way Final Cut reminds us filmmaking involves a team of people, everyone working together creating something special. The big finale, which is borrowed from One Cut of the Dead again, is presented in a way that will make any audience immediately want to cheer and applaud at the end with a big smile. THIS is what movie-making is all about. It's not just the director, it's not just the actors, it's not just the producer or the make-up crew or the composer or the set decorator or any single person. It's about every single one of them, even if we don't see most of them on screen while watching, they all provided something. Seeing how the final shot in Final Cut comes together is exactly the feel-good vibe of collaboration captured perfectly. And it's a great reminder that this is what goes into making films as we head into the rest of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Every film ends with credits, the white-text-on-black list of names of all of the people who worked hard to make it. Most folks skip the credits, or dash out as they start (especially when there is so much to do), but honoring the creators & craftsmen by sticking around for 5 minutes and watching is important. Hundreds / thousands of people are involved in making movies, though often we only can recall the writer or director or actors. Final Cut is a tribute to the glory of teamwork and how filmmaking can bring us together, just as the act of watching films brings us together. Enjoying films with a crowd is incomparable, a magical experience. The late Roger Ebert summed this up with his quote about how movies, "are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us." I am looking forward to sharing this journey through Cannes 2022's films with everyone in town that is celebrating cinema and storytelling.