2022 Cannes Film Festival Diary 1: World War Z

by C.J. Prince

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday May 22, 2022
Originally published on May 18, 2022

Jury president Vincent Lindon, center, poses with jury members Jeff Nichols, from left, Noomi Rapace, Asghar Farhadi, Deepika Padukone, Rebecca Hall, Joachim Trier, Jasmine Trinca, and Ladj Ly at the photo call for the jury at the 75th international film festival, Cannes.
Jury president Vincent Lindon, center, poses with jury members Jeff Nichols, from left, Noomi Rapace, Asghar Farhadi, Deepika Padukone, Rebecca Hall, Joachim Trier, Jasmine Trinca, and Ladj Ly at the photo call for the jury at the 75th international film festival, Cannes.  (Source:AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

One of the more unfortunate things about the lead-up to the Cannes Film Festival is how much emphasis is placed on everything but the films. Opening day doesn't kick off until the evening with a ceremony followed by a premiere of the festival's opening title, so press and industry folks swarming on the Croisette turn their attention to things that have no relevance to anyone not attending. Case in point: members of the press took to social media over the past several days to complain about the festival's new online ticketing system, with site crashes holding them up for getting passes to some of the bigger premieres.

The reality of the situation is a lot funnier. The most vocal complaints came from people and publications who prospered the most from Cannes' old system, where everyone lined up outside for hours and were let in based on the level of priority their badge had. With the online system that form of hierarchy goes with it, and soon the top badges discovered that an overloaded website doesn't discriminate to their liking.

The sight of people upset at new technologies disrupting power dynamics that favored them is fitting for an event like Cannes, which finds itself clinging on to its status as the rest of the world continues to change. That awkward, stubborn attitude felt especially strong when watching the Opening Ceremony, an hour-long show kicking off the festival before screening the opening night film. Mistress of Ceremonies Virginie Efira came onstage to deliver a speech that started with her asking if cinema had the power to change the world, and closed it with the declaration that "Cinema is alive." At a certain point these affirmations of cinema's power and livelihood give off a twinge of desperation. The constant need to talk about the greatness of film puts more emphasis on telling than showing, and hearing the same song and dance coming from the biggest event in world cinema feels like a routine to distract from the various elephants in the room.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy appears via remote during the opening ceremony of the 75th international film festival, Cannes.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy appears via remote during the opening ceremony of the 75th international film festival, Cannes.  (Source: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Just as I thought that all the self-importance started to border on the delusional, Efira introduced the ceremony's surprise guest: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, beamed in from a live satellite feed to give a speech about the horrors of war and (you guessed it) the power of cinema. Sitting in the press screening room, surrounded by hundreds watching Zelenskyy address the thousands of formally dressed guests in the festival's main space, I felt like a witness to the largest scale attempt to fit a square peg in a round hole. There's no denying the importance that film has as an artform, but it's no secret that the kinds of films Cannes showcases are getting harder to make thanks to the juggernauts of Disney, TV, and streaming services. That decreasing relevance can cause a top dog like Cannes to have its own crisis, but drawing a direct line between itself and a country under attack from a major world power is not as good of a look as the festival thinks it is. A bit more perspective and self-awareness can go a long way for Cannes, and until they gain those qualities these sorts of ceremonies will continue to look like extravagant displays of heads in sand.

Luckily, once the festival kicks off properly, it's easier to focus on the films themselves. This year's opening film is "Final Cut," Michel Hazanavicius' ("The Artist") remake of the Japanese zombie movie "One Cut of the Dead", which became a surprise hit with genre fans after making a splash at festivals around the world. The original film split itself into three distinct acts, with the first being a self-contained 40 minute movie shot in a single take where a film crew making a zombie movie gets attacked by real zombies. The second act goes back in time to follow the cast/crew of the zombie movie in the weeks prior to filming, and the final act replays the movie within the movie but from an entirely different perspective.

Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, from left, Romain Duris, Finnegan Oldfield, director Michel Hazanavicius, and Berenice Bejo pose for photographers upon arrival at the opening ceremony and the premiere of the film 'Final Cut' at the 75th international
Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, from left, Romain Duris, Finnegan Oldfield, director Michel Hazanavicius, and Berenice Bejo pose for photographers upon arrival at the opening ceremony and the premiere of the film 'Final Cut' at the 75th international  (Source: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Hazanavicius doesn't stray too far from the source material, except to add in another meta layer to the proceedings: this film is set in the same universe as "One Cut of the Dead," where the success of the zombie movie in Japan prompts its producer (Takehara Yoshiko, playing a variation on her role in the original) to commission a French remake. The job goes to Rémi (Romain Duris), a director who describes his work as "fast, cheap and fine," who agrees after support from his wife Nadia (Bérénice Bejo) and daughter Romy (Simone Hazanavicius). From that point on, it's pretty much a beat for beat remake of the original film, with some minor tweaks here and there.

After watching "One Cut of the Dead," it's easy to see why people would be charmed by its shoddy and endearing tone, even if its meta approach is too clever by half. Comparatively, "Final Cut" is more of a mixed bag due to the fact it's made by an Academy Award winning director and a cast of pros in the French film industry. The original film had the benefit of a largely unknown cast and crew (at least for Western audiences), and a more conscious effort to make their fake zombie movie more believable in its low-rent execution. This time, we have well-known faces purposely trying to be bad, meaning it's impossible to fall for the same bait and switch "One Cut of the Dead" pulled off.

This gives "Final Cut" little purpose to exist, although Hazanavicius does a far better job at pulling off the final act, which succeeds where the original fails at tying everything together for a funny, emotional payoff. Still, for those with any interest in watching "Final Cut", I would recommend catching "One Cut of the Dead" first. Despite the remake's advantages in some areas, it can't come close to the original's