If one must ascribe a theme to the Michel Hazanavicius project, it might be documenting the progression of film history: The Artist the silent era, Redoubtable (or, uh, sorry, Godard Mon Amour) the new wave, and now Final Cut the dreaded hyper-capitalist streaming era. Considering his 2014 Cannes completion entry and Fred Zinnemann remake The Search, likely one of the most-forgotten works of recent times, seemingly killed all his Hollywood crossover potential in one fell swoop, there’s likely some bitterness about being the rare French Academy Award winner still at the mercy of ever-changing markets.

Having (admittedly) never seen Shin’ichirō Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead I’m unsure to what degree his remake, Final Cut, is riffing or reinventing the basic premise, but it’s not hard to detect some personal angle when a seeming Hazanivicius stand-in, fading French director Remi (Romain Duris), serves as the lead. An opportunity for the helmer comes when he’s pitched by savvy producers on remaking a Japanese zombie horror film which will serve as the debut content of a new streaming service called Z, a European equivalent to the horror channel Shudder. The catch: it has to be a one-take, 30-minute live-stream. (Memories of Woody Harrelson’s directorial debut Lost in London, anyone?)

Being that horror sells at the moment and he’s not really one to turn down a go project, Remi takes on the challenge. Complications ensue––not just the technical challenges required with a skeleton crew and low budget, but a pompous young actor, Raphael (Finnegan Oldfield), sold as the “French Adam Driver” who constantly has to argue for zombies as a metaphor for globalization and capitalism to get into his role, plus the constant interference of producers from the original Japanese film who insist on increasing fidelity to the source material (of course leading to Remi being, multiple times, accidentally racist in front of the original producer and her interpreter).

Yet what could’ve been a modern update of Wim Wenders’ blistering industry takedown The State of Things for the age of “content” falls flat. Being the savvy crowd-pleasing hack he is, Hazanavicius can’t resist banking his story in a cheesy, maudlin father-daughter bonding arc over the love of moviemaking. Satire is a similarly limp affair, if anything more a reaffirmation of status quo than some howl against it. The tone is nudging enough to get those attending opening night of the Cannes Film Festival to giggle at the French film industry inside-baseball without actually being offended.

And one senses that Hazanavicius has no actual love for the horror genre; the zombie film-within-the-film is tedious to watch. As an exploitation cinema superfan, I feel increasingly alienated by directions the current films have taken, with either foreign-festival favorites (e.g. Sisu) or multiplex IP entries (e.g. Evil Dead Rise) both exhibiting the same self-conscious use of splatter-movie requirements to dull-as-dishwater, spiritually deadening ends. Perhaps it’s above Hazanavicius to even be passionate about this; his film-history “project” comes to a naturally defeatist, yet falsely optimistic conclusion.

Final Cut is now in theaters.

Grade: C

No more articles