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LES ARCS 2021

Michel Hazanavicius • Director

“It’d be good if there were some cinema left”

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- Theatres, media chronology, platforms, Final Cut at the Sundance Film Festival: we met with the Oscar-winning filmmaker, jury president at the 13th Les Arcs Film Festival

Michel Hazanavicius  • Director
(© Alexandra Fleurantin/Les Arcs Film Festival)

Cineuropa met with Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning filmmaker and president of the 13th Les Arcs Film Festival, to discuss movie theatres and media chronology as well as his film Final Cut [+see also:
interview: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile
]
, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Cineuropa: Theatrical cinema is currently going through very serious difficulties, with some even prophesying its disappearance. What do you think?
Michel Hazanavicius:
It’s always spectacular to announce that we are in a terminal phase, but it's talk that we've been hearing for almost 100 years. The former head of the CNC, David Kessler, said that when he took up his post, his predecessor showed him the front page of a 1927 newspaper announcing that the cinema was in crisis. So cinema has always been in crisis, or even dead if you like, that changes. But I am not Madame Soleil, I don't know how things will turn out. The importance that series are gaining, not only economically, but also artistically, and the interest that many viewers and image makers have in them, is changing the situation. Does this mean parricide? I'm not sure.

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The danger is that cinema in France has always been protected by a political will, with money targeted at the film industry and the creation of cinema, but also because it is an industry that generates a lot of jobs and a great economic force. But if the same professionals start making series, cinema as such is not really worth defending from a political point of view because the interest for politicians is jobs. But series and cinema are not quite the same thing, so it would still be good if there were some cinema left.

When you were president of the ARP, you were in favour of more flexibility in terms of media chronology. Are you still on the same line with the spectacular rise of platforms amplified by the pandemic?
It is not a question of killing historical partners, but of thinking in terms of films. For a film that costs 500,000 euros, it is not at all certain that the media chronology as it is adapted to a 180 million dollar film will be beneficial to it, that the scheme will be fair and that it will be good for both. There are films that you can imagine having a digital life first that will allow them to have decent lives in theatres, or even not to be released in theatres if you realise that there is no point in doing so. Many films that are released in cinemas are not really released, they are "getting some air" as René Bonell used to say: these are very technical releases. Obviously, we would all like our films to be seen in theatres and in full houses, but these cinemas have to be filled. When I talk about flexibility, I mean thinking starting from the films, seeing their economics, how they are financed, what their release strategy is, etc., and then adapting in the most intelligent way so that each film can achieve its maximum potential. I think that everyone would win.

You will unveil your new film Final Cut at the next Sundance Film Festival. Where did the idea for this remake of One Cut Of The Dead by Japanese director Shin'ichirô Ueda come from?
I had the idea of making a film about a film shoot. I spoke about it by chance to Vincent Maraval who told me that he had just acquired the remake rights to a film that he advised me to see. So I watched this film, which had been made in a very particular economy since it was a student film. I thought it would be interesting to do a remake because I wasn't going to make exactly the same film, because it would be my interpretation. By the way, the film itself is based on a play. That's the origin of the story. I didn't wake up one morning and said to myself: "You know what, I wouldn’t mind making a remake of a Japanese film." I think I made a very funny film, in any case it's a comedy designed first and foremost to make people laugh. This film was not conceived at all with a festival logic, but with a comedy logic. Afterwards, Sundance loved it, wanted it and offered us dream conditions in a very beautiful section where Final Cut will be the only non-English language film. I'm delighted to go there and also very happy that the film is being presented in an A category festival.

You haven't yet taken the leap to work for a platform, in series or in film. Are you considering it?
For the moment, I want to stay with the film format because it took me a long time to get comfortable with a length of 1h30-2h00 because I came from an art school and then from very short formats for television. I'm not a specialist in series, I don't watch many of them because they are very time consuming and many of them work by getting the viewer addicted, which I'm not a fan of. I also often find after two or three episodes that it would have made a wonderful film, and instead it drags on a bit. On the other hand, if I wanted to make a film that the traditional film circuits couldn't finance, but a platform could, I would have no problem making a film for a platform. For me, platforms are not the devil. I feel that the more places you can show films, the better it should be for the cinephile, even if there are pitfalls too.

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(Translated from French)

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