Tuesday evening, for the opening of the 75and edition of the Cannes festival, was projected the new film of Michel Hazanavicius. Carried by the actors Romain Duris, Berenice Bejo and Finnegan Oldfield, Cut! also hit theaters on Wednesday, May 18. After The Artist (2011), The Search (2014) and The Redoubtable (2017), the filmmaker therefore returns with a comedy in the form of a pastiche of a Z series. In this schoolboy comedy inspired by a Japanese amateur film at the end of his studies (Don’t cut! of Shinichiro Ueda), real zombies come to disturb a movie shooting… about zombies. A mise en abyme of cinema by itself through the figure of the zombie, which questions our own fears.
The zombies or the disorder in the real
It all starts with a sequence shot of what looks like a nanar. The scenario is intended to be simple and effective: a horror film shoot is disturbed by the sudden appearance of real undead. Only the poor director Rémi (Romain Duris) seems to see an interest in the thing – for his own career as a filmmaker! Follower of the pastiche of the cinema in the cinema (The American Class, The Artistthe film series OSS 117…), Michel Hazanavicius hijacks the codes of zombie movies to offer us an entertaining comedy against a backdrop of cinematic mise-en-abîme. If the film is particularly biting, it’s because it takes us to task on our taste for horror in cinema. Above all, by this process of looking at himself, he reveals a fundamental element of the fantastic, to which terror is attached: the confusion in the real.
According to the semiologist, critic and essayist Tzvetan Todorov, the fantastic is defined by the introduction of the illogical into the logic of the real: ” In a world that is ours, the one we know, without devils, sylphs or vampirses, an event occurs which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. Whoever perceives the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either it is a illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination, and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event truly took place, it is an integral part of reality, but then this reality is governed by laws unknown to us. » (Introduction to fantasy literature1970)
Unlike the marvelous (whether hyperbolic, exotic or instrumental), the fantastic, to which horror is attached, blurs the boundaries of reality: ” The fantastic is the hesitation experienced by a being who knows only natural lawss, faced with a seemingly supernatural eventI. » The whole film, which takes the form of a clever triptych (the film itself, its preparation then its backstage), is amused by this confusion in the spectator where he is strolled by an incredible story from start to finish.
Zombies or Revenge of the Living Ancients
Why do zombie movies scare us? Perhaps it is, beyond their repulsive aspect and their dangerousness, because they maintain an intimate relationship with our own finitude. The famous text The Uncanny (1919) by Freud can echo the figure of the zombie. He writes in fact that« éyouSince nearly all of us still think like savages on this point, it is not surprising that the primitive fear of death is still so powerful with us, and that it is ready to manifest itself as soon as ‘something comes in front of her’. The zombie, as an ancient living being that would return to the surface of the earth to disrupt the natural course of things, is the manifestation of our own mortality. Like death, the zombie threatens all living beings: as soon as it attacks a prey, the latter itself becomes a zombie.
This “disturbing strangeness” is not new and would come from an archaic fantasy where the dead haunt the living to bring it back there. As a reminder, the figure of the zombie was born with the universe of voodoo witchcraft from Haiti and the West Indies. In Haitian Creole, “zonbi” means “spirit” or “revenant”. It is a living person to whom the sorcerer makes swallow a hypnotic drug (the ” powder shot », based on tetrodotoxin), which he then buries for 24 hours, before digging it up to make people believe in its powers of resurrection and reduce it to slavery. In this sense, the zombie also constitutes a figure of dehumanization: in Cut!the character of Ken (Finnegan Oldfield) exclaims: “Zombies don’t have alength […] LZombies are dehumanization and it terrifies the viewer! »
The zombies or the catharsis of the disaster
Inscribed deep within the human psyche, the zombie is also a contemporary mythological figure that conveys a certain idea of the present time. In Anti-Oedipus (1972), Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari write that ” the only myth modern is that of the zombie”. In popular and audiovisual culture alone, zombie films are legion (the series The Walking Deadfeature films World War Z Where The Dead Don‘t die… to name only these recent productions). Why such an attraction for zombies? No doubt zombies bring us back to our own contemporary anxieties. Whether we think of the social or ecological crisis that the world is currently going through, zombies represent in a generic, and therefore universal way, this threat that hangs over humanity. : an apocalypse. Rémi, the director of the fake movie-in-the-movie, encourages his actor by saying: “You’re post-apocalyptic shit!” »
The zombie has this particular and powerful at the same time: it condenses our concern metaphysical in the face of death but also our torments about the various crises we are going through. Against this backdrop of end-of-the-world terror, and through easy procedures ranging from scatophilic humor to repetitive comedy, passing through a diversion of the codes of gore, Michel Hazanavicius makes us laugh and have a good time while surfing on our own fears. If only in this, Cut! is a successful challenge.
Cut !by Michel Hazanavicius, with Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Simone Hazanavicius, Finnegan Oldfield, is currently in theaters.
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“Cut!” : zombies so close to us
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