Prolific filmmaker, Michel Hazanavicius signs “Cutez”, a hilarious fantasy set against the backdrop of a zombie film broadcast live on a platform. After “The Artist” and “Le Redoutable”, the director once again explores cinematographic creation by paying homage to the collective and the commitment of those who make it. This film, where we find, among others, Romain Duris, Grégory Gadebois, Bérénice Bejo and Jean-Pascal Zadi, opened the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday May 17.
Why did you decide to change the title of the film from “Z (like Z)” to “Cut”?
The Ukrainians asked me. You have to understand the context. A year ago, from my point of view as a Frenchman making a comedy with zombies, “Z (like Z)” obviously had no political connotation. In the meantime, and without even mentioning Zemmour, who put Zs everywhere, the war came to Ukraine with Zs on Russian tanks. The Z loaded up with something very close to the swastika for Eastern Europe, and primarily for the Ukrainians. From the moment Frémaux (General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival – Editor’s note) announced that the film would open, it became something else. All of a sudden, this title embodied a form of culpable indifference to what is happening 2,000 km away. No one has done wrong in the story but the context has changed. I made a film about Chechnya which was about the Russian army (“The Search”), so the Ukrainians didn’t suspect me of anything. But, in a very respectful way, they asked me if I could change the title. They were very touched that we made this gesture and I am happy to have done it.
How does the new title, “Cut”, echo the imagination of cinema?
There is a double game on this “Cut”. The characters have axes and cut off heads and arms because they are zombies. But I reassure everyone, they are gogol zombies who are pitiful. If you are afraid of zombies, you are safe. “Cut” is also the director’s “cut”. My film tells the story of a film. And the film within the film is a sequence shot. The principle of a sequence shot is that there are no cuts.
What led you to come back to this idea of a film within a film?
I like the meta dynamic. We have a little mise en abyme with a play on the content and the form. It brings potentially playful dynamics. We can do as is the case here with comedy, but also more dreamlike or charming things like with “The Artist”. In the case of “Le Redoutable”, a kind of portrait of Jean-Luc Godard at a moment in his life, the story that describes him does not always show him to his advantage. On the other hand, the form used by playing with Godardian motifs pays complete homage to it. It creates a balance. Each film finds a kind of equation between content and form. With “Cut”, I made a pull-out film that allows for a fairly dizzying game.
“Cut” is very entertaining and tells things.
In the land of auteur cinema, you exalt the collective…
A tray is very organic. If the trainee who was to accompany the actor does not wake up, the whole machine is out of order. That’s what the movie is about. This film crew, however futile its mission, namely to tell a story, is also a metaphor, for better or for worse, of any social group. There are hierarchies, egos, interactions, relationships of subordination, conflicts. All this is picked up with the idea of time passing very quickly. You have to complete the mission. In there, bringing out the importance of working together, of joining hands and of the collective is one of the engines of the film’s story.
What does the presentation of “Cut” at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival inspire in you?
It is a very great honour. I’m very proud to do it with a frank comedy, a joyful film that values people in the cinema. The vast majority of festival films are very attentive to the world. But these are not necessarily entertainment films. “Cut” is very entertaining and tells things.
What does the Cannes Film Festival represent, where you had mixed fortunes?
It represents one of the rare places where the cinema is so important. Cannes remains arguably the biggest festival in the world. At the time, an unfavorable opinion is very violent. It’s not just people who have seen a movie that doesn’t meet their expectations. They want to hang you! On the other hand, it is very gratifying when there is an adhesion to the film. But in the end, over time, you realize that it is primarily a place where people become emotionally invested in your work. They have hard, clear-cut, violent opinions. In fact, it’s cool. If you ask me, “Would you go to Cannes if you got screwed every time?” No, probably not, I’m not a masochist. I got screwed once, it’s true (for “The Search” – Editor’s note). But the other times it went extremely well. Especially with “The Artist”. With “Le Redoutable”, people loved it, others didn’t like that we touch Godard in this way. Finally, I like that people are angry and I’m very happy to go.
A tray is organic. If a trainee does not come, everything is out of order. This team is a metaphor, for better or for worse, of any social group.
How do you apprehend this post-Covid period in cinemas?
There is something a little disturbing. The bulk of the theatrical admissions concern films that all have the same highly formatted American blockbuster profile. This poses the problem of exclusive attendance. It is to be hoped that French films manage to seduce more and more spectators and that pleasure is reborn. The pandemic has accelerated platform competition. But it is a changing market. It’s not like they’re all okay. This market will also regulate itself. The danger is that, in terms of attendance, there are only “event” films, very expensive, very formatted. And a miserable economy around. It looks like the direction the world is going, but you have to try to fight it.
What do you think about the request from Ukrainian filmmakers to put Russian culture on hold?
I don’t know how to be very relevant on the matter. It is very complicated to be binary. I totally understand the desire for a radical embargo on the Russians, to stop any kind of trade with them. Nevertheless, having said that, there is also another reality that concerns culture. Most of the people doing it are dissonant voices and are, at minimum, non-Putinian, at maximum, anti-Putinian. We find ourselves in a potentially very counter-productive and very complex situation. I don’t think I’m qualified to give a relevant answer. I have these two elements and I am in a kind of impasse. I find it hard to think beyond these two completely contradictory things. Two truths clash. But I understand the Ukrainians. There are situations where there is no good solution. Luckily it’s not up to me to choose.