Director/Screenplay – Michel Hazanavicius, Based on the Film One Cut of the Dead Written by Shinichiro Ueda, Producers – Brahm Chiqua, Alain de la Mata, Noemie Devide, Michel Hazanavicius, Vincent Maraval & John Penotti, Photography – Jonathan Ricquebourg, Music – Alexandre Desplat, Visual Effects – Digital District (Supervisor – Philippe ‘Falap’ Aubry), Makeup Effects – Denis Gastou & Jean-Christophe Spadaccini, Production Design – Joan Le Boru. Production Company – Getaway Films/La Classe Americaine/France 2 Cinema/Gaga Corporation/Pan-Europienne Distribution/Alcatraz Films/Sofitvcine 9/Canal+/Cine+/France Televisions/Le Region Ile-de-France/Le Centre National du Cinema et de l’Image Animee.
Film director Higurashi Higurasai is making a zombie film. Things are going wrong where it appears that the Blood Curse has been invoked, causing crew members to be turned into zombies. However, this is actually a film that has been shot all in a single take by Remi Bouillon for the Japanese tv station Channel Z. On the day of shooting, a series of ongoing disasters on set with drunken actors and technical problems ended up feeding into the final product.
The Japanese One Cut of the Dead (2017) was one the freshest takes on the overworked genre of the Zombie Film in recent years. The central conceit of the film was that we started out watching what looked like a crappy low-budget zombie film that was being shot all in one unbroken take. After the 37 minute mark, the film did a switch to straight dramatic telling, becoming a comedy of errors showing the chaos behind the scenes and how this led to the final product. Most of those involved returned for a sequel One Cut of the Dead in Hollywood (2019), along with One Cut of the Dead: Mission Remote (2020), a special made during the pandemic
This is a French remake of the first film. It was conducted by Michel Hazanavicius, who gained international plaudits and won the Academy Award for Best Director, along with a host of other awards, for The Artist (2012), a film made as a mimicry of a silent movie. Before that, Hazanavicius had made a couple of parody revivals of the French spy movie series OSS117 and subsequently went on to make The Search (2014) and Redoubtable (2017).
With Final Cut, Michel Hazanavicius has simply remade the original in French. There are a number of direct continuity connections to the original with talk of this version being based on the Japanese fim, plus an appearance from Yoshiko Takehara as the wizened, dwarf producer. The oddity that becomes apparent throughout is that Hazanavicius has closely remade the Japanese version beat for beat.
All of the elements of the original are there – the drunken crew member vomiting and having to be propped up, the diarrhoeic actor, the director’s wife who wades into combat with her martial arts (which are now rewritten as Krav Maga), the dropped equipment or scenes where people have to improvise, and the end with the human pyramid zoom shot. The similarities are there right down to the French cast all playing characters that have Japanese names and are similarly outfitted, including Romain Duris wearing an identical Hawaiian shirt to the one that Takayuki Hamatsu wore in the original. About the only parts I don’t remember being in the original is any equivalent of musician Jean-Pascal Zadi playing a live soundtrack.
All of that said, I don’t think I can’t think of any other Remake in recent memory that follows the original so closely and completely misses all of what made the original so enjoyable. Hazanavicius replicates the zombie film scenes but here they are shot with too much of a professional polish that the joke of being on the set of a crappy low-budget zombie film gets lost. This film runs fifteen minutes longer overall than the Japanese original. You would have thought that maybe this extra running time might have been used to add or extend the jokes but it isn’t. The film-outside-the-film scenes here have slightly more given over to the director trying to connect with his daughter (played by Michel Hazanavicius’s own daughter Simone) but that is it.
What we instead get in the film-outside-the-film scenes is lots of running around but little that is funny. In the original, it became immediately apparent that we were seeing a film about what really went on behind the scenes and the fun became in watching the increasing absurdity as mishap piled on mishap. Here the joke of “this is what really went on” is only sporadically apparent – it leaves me wondering how much of the joke would be gotten by someone coming in to view the film without an awareness of the original. It just seems too schematic and laborious a replication of a joke without the energy and wit of the original. In other words, yet another case of a joke that fails through being told a second time.