Sunday, 6 January 2019

One Cut Of The Dead

Dead Pan

One Cut Of The Dead
(aka Kamera o tomeru na!)

2017 Japan Directed by Shin'ichirô Ueda
UK cinema release print.

Okay so... more than most films... I’ve got to be really careful reviewing this one if I hope to do so without giving you any spoilers. Some of the film’s set up that I shall describe, which may seem at first like a spoiler, is definitely not and it’s certainly no more than you can glean from the trailer. In fact, it may even be said to be somewhat misleading in my, or any other non-spoiler representation of it but... that’s the exact nature of the beast in the case of this particular movie. So I’m happy to misrepresent slightly in order to preserve the secrets of the film because it actually won’t affect the criticism of it to any real extent and it’s a film deserving of a certain respect, whether you liked it or not.

That being said, I did really enjoy this movie but, it has to be said, I didn’t find it quite as funny as the rest of the audience in the Prince Charles Cinema on the day I saw it (which is the only cinema I could find in London showing this thing, believe it or not). It was a good audience and they were literally roaring with laughter at this movie... a little during the first 40 or so minutes and then, almost continually for the second half of the film. It would be true to say that this is some of the best, positive audience reaction I’ve seen at the cinema in quite some time. That being said, it still doesn’t rival the audience reaction I witnessed with literally hundreds of people jumping in fear and then laughing on the first cinema release of Return Of The Living Dead but, then again, few things do. This screening of One Cut Of The Dead, though, is definitely up there with that sense of full on audience participation.

Okay so... One Cut Of The Dead is a story about a film crew making a zombie film. The acting from the two leads isn’t that great and the director has a fit because, after 42 takes on one shot, his leading actress still can’t get her ‘fear response’ right. So during a break from filming, the director takes advantage of a bit of urban myth concerning the location they are shooting at and performs a magic ritual which unearths real zombies (you know, the George A Romero kind) to terrorise and imperil the cast and crew, so he can get a more authentic motion picture. Now, I loved the cheesy music used during the opening when the film within a film is first being shot... it helped push the idea of ‘too fake’ acting almost as well as the leading actress. However, as I went through the rest of the film, post zombie outbreak, I did notice a couple of things that seemed oddly out of place. Like a person who didn’t seem to belong in a scene or, at the very least, not reacting to the very real threat of zombie carnage. And then I couldn’t figure out if the camera operator was supposed to be one of the characters... after he or she quickly wipes off the front of the camera to rid it of blood splashes... and then some more stuff happens and... well, I’m trying to be spoiler free here so all I will say is that the film all makes perfect sense as long as you stick with it to the end.

The acting on display here is all pretty good with the person playing the director, Takayuki Hamatsu being of special note. In fact, the whole movie is played really well by the entire cast and, when you realise that two or more different styles of acting is called for by some of the principal players, you’ll probably agree that what’s been achieved here is pretty incredible. And there are lots of different tricks used to delineate when that initial film within a film is turned into a ‘real zombie’ outbreak. Such as the style of the music suddenly shifting to something which sounds as much like it’s been influenced by Fabio Frizzi as anything else.

There’s also a lot of handheld camera in this movie... pretty much most of it, in fact and, you’ll discover just why that is as the movie progresses. There’s a lot to be admired in this film but my little exercise in self discipline to not bring spoilers to the table on this one precludes me from mentioning a lot of these things.

So is it funny? Well I was mildly amused all the way through, even when the film was catching me off guard and occasionally making me feel somewhat short changed in regards to certain things... until full realisation kicked in again. And as for the rest of the audience... well, like I said, they were collectively howling in the aisles, which is no bad thing. We all react with laughter when, for example, we are confronted with over the top horror but I always react badly when a director is milking the same joke or sight gag. All I can say, without giving the game away here is... the director finds some good ways to milk the same recurring jokes at different levels and the crowd I was with were certainly laughing at something they saw and, when they saw a similar thing later, were laughing even more appreciatively for different reasons. And that’s really all I can say here about this film except for maybe one thing...

For a film which has you reacting on a more humourous level for 99.9% of the film, there’s an unexpectedly moving scene right in the last minute or so of the picture. There’s a little moment where we get a look at a photograph which has already been seen in the movie once before. When you see it again and you can relate it to... and this will give absolutely nothing away, I promise, unless you’ve already seen the film... relate it to a ‘crane shot’, then you realise just what a nice little touching moment the writer/director has pulled off here... amongst the technical marvel of the exact nature of the film, which won’t dawn on you until you’re maybe two thirds of the way through it.

So... fans of certain types of movies will love One Cut Of The Dead. I’m not going to list any genres or sub-genres because, to do so, will be somewhat spoilerific. However, I will give one bit of advice to those of you who are going in cold because I can see people leaving way too early if they’re not careful. If you are sitting in the auditorium and you felt that the zombie movie you were just watching ended a lot sooner than you were expecting... trust me... stay past the end credits. Things haven’t even really gotten started yet.

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