One Cut of the Dead
by Hope Madden
For about 37 minutes, you may feel like Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead delivers, cleverly enough, on a very familiar promise.
One Cut opens as a micro-budget zombie movie, which soon reveals itself to be a film within a film when real zombies show up on set. As the bullying egomaniac director continues filming, ecstatic over the authenticity, Ueda appears to deconstruct cinema.
And though that may sound intriguing on the surface, the truth is that what transpires after that 37 minute mark officially defines Ueda as an inventive, gleeful master of chaos and lover of the magic of nuts and bolts filmmaking.
To detail any additional plot points—as tempting as that is—would spoil the enjoyable lunacy One Cut has in store.
Suffice it to say, Ueda improves upon that opening act without really losing the themes he introduces. Everything that feels like a misstep blossoms into an inspired bit, all of it highlighting Ueda’s true love for what he’s doing.
Likable and silly, One Cut is brightly economical, embracing rather than hiding its shoestring – in fact, Ueda’s camera jubilantly closes in on shoestrings. His movie giddily exposes the neuroses, dangers, tribulations and mistakes—he really, deeply loves the mistakes—inherent in genre filmmaking. If nothing else, this movie is a mash note to artistic compromise.
The manic comedy proves as infectious as the zombiism on the screen, and much of the reason is the committed cast. Ueda allows each performer the opportunity to grow and discover, and every actor at one point or another takes full advantage of his or her moment to shine.
Harumi Shuhama particularly impresses as, well, let’s just say she’s the make up artist and self defense hobbyist. Yuzuki Akiyama delivers the most layered performance, but, playing the director, Takayuki Hamatsu steals every scene. He’s hilarious, adorable, compassionate, and incredibly easy to root for.
Like this movie.