He wasn’t the only one who indicated that the festival was being held at a troubling time. Forest Whitaker, who won the best-actor prize at Cannes for Clint Eastwood’s “Bird” in 1988, received an honorary Palme tonight. Typically soft-spoken, he was difficult to hear under the French spoken over him, but he cited the pandemic and protests and said that “for years we’ll be processing the trauma” of the present. In a second speech, when the festival president, Pierre Lescure, officially gave him his Palme, Whitaker expressed nostalgia, recalling how walking the red carpet this evening had made memories from 1988 come flooding back. “I can still here the chants—’Clint!’ ‘Clint!'” he said.
The ceremony, capped by Zelensky’s speech and an appearance by Julianne Moore, who officially declared the festival “ouvert,” was immediately followed by a screening of “Final Cut,” the opening film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist“). In French, “Final Cut” was originally titled “Z (Comme Z)”—that is, Z (Like Z)—but the title was changed to “Coupez!” (cut!) because the letter Z has become a symbol used by Russians to support the war against Ukraine. But “Final Cut” is a meta-movie, and multiple titles appear onscreen at different points. It certainly didn’t help, and was especially appalling following the speech by Zelensky, that the very first title we see is, in fact, “Z.”
“Final Cut” is a remake of a Japanese movie that premiered in 2017 called “One Cut of the Dead,” and if you know that film, there’s absolutely no reason to see this one. Both versions are difficult to discuss without giving too much away, but both open with (what looks like) a 30-minute single take of a movie crew filming a zombie thriller; during that time, the crew and the actors get attacked by actual zombies. Or so it seems. That sequence is a strange and sustained bit of screen comedy, and part of what makes it so distinctive in the original is its gracelessness. It’s supposed to look like the work of a talentless journeyman filmmaker attempting a high-wire act far beyond his skill set. Romain Duris plays the director character in “Final Cut.” He typically works on projects like infomercials and re-enactments. His goal, he says, is to make things that are “fast, cheap and decent.”