The movie, which The Hollywood Reporter reviewer Jordan Mintzer called “clever and giddily entertaining,” screened to steady laughter in the 2,000 seat Lumieré Theatre and earned a solid four-minute standing ovation.
The film was previously titled Z, but Hazanavicius changed its name after a letter was sent to him and the festival by the Ukrainian Institute explaining that “Z” has become a symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, used in pro-Russian demonstrations. “My film is made to bring joy and under no circumstances would I want it to be associated directly or indirectly with this war,” said the director in a statement announcing the name change.
Starring Romain Duris and Berenice Bejo, Final Cut opens with a 30-minute sequence during which a zombie film shoot appears to turn deadly. After what seems to be the final death in a bloody scene, the credits roll only to reveal a backstory: The action jumps back to one month earlier, where a second-rate French director, Rémi Bouillon (Duris), is approached by a Japanese producer (Yoshiko Takehara) to helm a horror flick in one uninterrupted take.
The opening ceremony stage event started with the evening’s emcee declaring, “Let’s come out of the dark together and embrace the world.” At this point, a black swath of fabric was removed from the stage to reveal a miniature red carpet that was made to look like the one outside on the steps of the Palais. Screens on the stage featured the Cannes skyline and had digital palm trees swaying in the wind.
The most notable appearance of the evening came from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined the festival via a live video feed from Kyiv. “We will win this war,” he said and later added, “It’s necessary for cinema not to be silent.”
Something that was in short supply: masks. Before the lights went down for the film to begin, a voice over the PA announced, “We strongly recommend you keep your mask on during the screening.” In the audience of 2000 people, only about 5 percent did, but the staff of the Palais were all masked.
Mia Galuppo and Rebecca Keegan contributed to this report.