Just when Shin’ichirô Ueda ‘One Cut of the Dead’ (2017) hit theaters in Indonesia, I disfavor it for the Hirokazu Kore-eda 2018 Palm D’or ‘Shoplifters’ (2018) – which is prominently powerful piece and had a lasting impact of the word ‘family’. The regret was the choice not to include the 2nd round of watching, discovering that ‘One Cut of The Dead’ is a love letter to all aspiring filmmakers out there. The internal aspect does involve the story of creating a low-budget film, however the external proof that the film really did cost low-budget and proof that it could make thousands of its budget back is truly inspiring. But let’s get back to that later and talk about the film first.
The 10th second we’ve entered the film, we’ve encountered a man (Kazuaki Nagaya) in unconvincing zombie makeup, something you would expect due to budget constraints. The camera pans to a girl (Yuzuki Akiyama), asking him to not get close in a subpar acting. “CUT!” the director yells, revealing that this is a film within a film. The film director (Takayuki Hamatsu), acting in how Stanley Kubrick would react after witnessing Shelley Duvall never hit the spot in the 42th take, went over-the-top, asking her to be emotional that reminisced how Terrence Fletcher asking Andrew Neiman to be on his fucking tempo. They decided to take a break, where a conversation strikes between the girl, the man and the makeup head department (Harumi Shuhama). The conversation does not only serve as the backdrop of the location, the abandoned water plant horror history, but also an awkwardly hilarious topic about the makeup head department hobby practicing martial art. After the time passes, the real horror begins as the real zombies attack. The intention failed though.
Perhaps we’ve been accustomed with the norm of zombies slowly walking (or running for fast-paced action style) towards us with the purpose of biting. Instead, the zombie puked the target, and I just laughed hard at what’s happening on screen. The director notices this, and uses this chance as the actors display the emotion the directors wanted. And thus, began the film mayhem of survival. Just like the film title promises, THE CAMERA DOESN’T STOP ROLLING! Yet throughout this one take, you’ll probably also figure out some moment of absurdity; the director momentarily breaks the 4th wall moment, asking the camera to keep on rolling. Stain of blood is being wiped off. A character who was supposed to be dead suddenly woken up in a normal state. Certainly it made me scratch my head and if this is a normal film, I would already have slammed this film hardly from the opening. However, the sheer level of absurdity somehow made this film work and I just enjoy every moment of it. And it’s all in ONE TAKE! Usually this kind of technique becomes distracting due to the stand-out techniques from standard filmmaking. But it doesn’t and just add the quality into it. It’s a chaotic, yet pure cinematic experience that is almost indescribable and when the film rolls its credit, you’ll realize that there’s still 1 more hour to go. Evaluating the condition, the film itself had been released for a few years and most of the trailers reveals the plot twist. So, I guess it wouldn’t be considered as a spoiler anymore but if you’re an anti-hardcore then I’ll conclude with one sentence: Recommended as hell!
For you readers that are still here, here comes the plot twist. The film flashbacks to a month ago, where the person who acts as the director really IS the DIRECTOR. He’s being offered to direct a special program about zombies with two goals to accomplish: the program will be broadcasted live and it will be done in one take. Some audiences (especially Western) would find the plot too over-the-top. But remember, the film is depicted on the Japanese culture, where life moves at a faster pace while the creative department needs to develop creative ideas so their channels would still be viewed by audiences (which undeniably a success considering Japanese citizens still watch TV aside from streaming programs to this date). It had been subtly hinted at in the flashback opening when an old actor (who also would appear as a zombie in the programme) is requested to cry, but did not know why he’s crying yet alone what scene it is now. The critique is elevated on the job offer, seemingly the need to accomplish an impossible task that becomes the epitome of satire that represents producers’ complicated wants (I’m not saying all producers act in such cases, but the news of director-producer conflict is too much to not be ignored). It is a great start for a satire, but for the whole product it becomes quite sluggish in the middle section showcasing the hectic pre-production process where it is filled with much dialogues without action. Not that surprising considering filmmaking itself involves lots of people from various departments, and we need to know at the very least each of the cast and crew on the surface and role. At the very least the purpose is delivered. We certainly got each cast and crew background and motivation, becoming a backdrop for the explosive third act; the behind-the-scene of filming itself.
The third act is a must-experienced so I won’t spoil anything. But to describe the third act is a work that I believe only Shin’ichirô Ueda could accomplish, tying up all the loose ends that we’ve seen before, all in a logical way while still being fresh even if all of the scene is being recycled. Never had I ever been so excited on seeing a behind-the-scenes that doesn’t involve bloopers or mundane interview style commentary. In the end, it’s a truly wholesome film about filmmaking, bringing smiles and joy to the casual audience but also an inspiring message to filmmakers that no matter how hard the journey will be, everything will end with laughter. A must-watch!