You see, I’ve always tried to exercise a bit of nicety when talking about media in general. While I don’t mind pointing out obvious deficiencies in any production or performance, I do still strive to find something positive and/or substantive to say about any story. I figure that some folks somewhere have gone to the great effort, time, and expense to put this thing together, and it deserves as much constructive criticism – good, bad, and ugly – that I can provide. This doesn’t mean (in any way) that I’m a shill because I’ve never liked anything for the sake of liking it; but having a soft spot for flicks that most audiences don’t give the time of day has taught me to appreciate art no matter how many strengths and weaknesses I might find.
As a consequence, I’ve sat through an inordinate amount of low- and no-budget fare that many who spout off about film online refuse to watch … and, at first blush, that’s precisely what the uninformed viewer might think of Final Cut (2022).
The film’s opening 30+ minutes have the look, feel, and overall aesthetic of a production that didn’t have enough artistic polish to catch the eye of a major studio exhibitor; but that’s only because it’s precisely what you’re supposed to think at that point in the story. The real deal – the tale behind this single-take zombie-fueled short film – begins anew when the director, cast, and crew are assembled to undertake one of the most oddball projects of their storied and ‘unstoried’ careers. Only then does the charm of this incredible experience show, making Cut one of the longest set-ups to deliver its joyous punchline in as dynamic a fashion as was humanly possible.
… and I haven’t laughed so much at a Horror/Comedy in quite some time.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Things go badly for a small film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie when they are attacked by real zombies.”
But what it is otherwise is a bit of comic genius. It’s a carnival show with a kinda/sorta storytelling twist that puts on full display the kind of magic one can only find in talented projects that audiences aren’t exposed to every day, so I’m giving this one a full thumbs up from the get-go.
Cut is a film-within-a-film-within-a-film.
Having seen more than my share of independent flicks, I can assure you that the opening chapter very much resembles a countless number of DVDs I’ve been sent to review over the years. This roughly 30-minute short film clearly has its own share of issues – the narrative jumps around uncomfortably with all of it being conceived and shot on a single spool of film with no cuts – with characters coming and going and the plot herking and jerking its way to an obvious symbolic finish … and this is only the beginning of the story.
Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius then picks up from his short film’s fade-to-black by sending the audience back in time a few months to the point wherein the fictional director Remi (played by Romain Duris) is contemplating whether or not he should accept what looks to be a somewhat doomed production of the ‘walking dead’ variety. Japanese investors are looking to remake their box office smash ‘Z’ in France, believing they have one of those rare intellectual properties that can break down barriers and maybe even capture ‘lightning in a bottle’ a second time in a new location. Though Remi initially passes on the chance, he reconsiders once he realizes that his fledgling director daughter has her sights set on meeting Z’s potential leading man, current French sensation Raphaël Barrelle (Finnegan Oldfield). (Oh, the things a parent does for his child!) But – before you know it – Remi finds himself deluged with more problems one might believe humanly possible when cast and crew idiosyncrasies mount well past the breaking point, forcing him to defy all odds by getting this single-take film done seamlessly in any way possible!
Though it’s a bit wacky at times – and the humor is occasionally a bit predictable – the cast of talent here gives one incredibly comic performance after another. Barrelle is incensed with tweaking the shooting script to match what he feels are the socio-cultural motifs that’ll draw the attention of the cultural betters. Ava (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is hoping to use the whole affair to bolster her burgeoning presence on social media. Philippe Rolland (Grégory Gadebois) hopes to drown out his mounting personal problems by losing himself in his work. Jonathan Mental (Raphaël Quenard) spends his days repeatedly asking for more elaborate perks from the group’s craft services, so much so that managing his requests becomes impossible. And an automobile accident the day of the shoot means both Remi and his wife Nadia (Bérénice Bejo) have no choice but to step in front of the camera as players in order to bring the story to realization … even though Nadia was forced out of the acting business years ago do to her feverish overcommitment to characterization!
Final Cut (2022) was produced by Getaway Films, La Classe Américaine, SK Global, Blue Light, France 2 Cinéma, and a few other participants. (If you’re truly interested in the full particulars, they’re available on IMDB.com.) DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the fine folks at Kino Lorber. As for the technical specifications? Because this is a film-within-a-film-within-a-film, there’s some occasionally trickery employed to indicate precisely which version of the production you’re in; that may sound a bit confusing, but trust me when I say you’ll understand it perfectly well when you see it. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? The disc boasts only a short making-of featurette; it’s nice, but I didn’t find it all that interesting.
Highest recommendation possible, but …
Final Cut (2022) both is and isn’t a Horror, and I think some might in the audience might be put off by the obvious association … but that’s honestly small potatoes. The film is far more a Comedy – and a very good one – about filmmakers, the filmmaking process, and the highs and lows of dealing with a variety of ‘personalities’ in a frenetic and complex situation. If patience is a virtue, then those who exercise it fully will be rewarded for doing so: Cut has about a 35-minute set-up that – as mentioned above – is a bit confusing for a variety of reasons that won’t be explained until the feature’s last 35-minutes … but I found the punchline well worth the wait. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong … and it’s nothing short of delicious.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Kino Lorber provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Final Cut (2022) by request for the express purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.