Toronto: 'Artist' Director Brings Recut Drama 'The Search' to Fest

'The Search'

Michel Hazanavicius shaved 17 minutes off the original version of his dark war drama after a negative reaction in Cannes

Michel Hazanavicius will take on Toronto armed with a new version of his Chechnya-set drama The Search. After receiving mixed reviews in Cannes, the Artist Oscar winner shaved 17 minutes off what he characterizes as an “angrier” version.

“When we went to Cannes, the movie was not 100 percent ready,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So the press was mixed — we had some good reviews and some bad reviews. But when I saw the movie, I wanted to recut it. I knew that the editing process was not completely done, and the reviews helped me to find the way to recut the movie.”

Working through “at least 15 versions," he collaborated with star and wife Berenice Bejo to soften the rhetoric of her human rights commission worker, Carole. "I realized that [the character] was an obstacle, creating distance between the emotion of the story and the audience and making them reject it a little bit," he says. With the more earnest tone, he says audiences are able to relate to the film more and make their own judgments. "When people see the movie, they like it, so maybe there’s a gap between the critics and journalists and the audience," he notes.

Though the film received a long ovation at the public premiere in Cannes, there were boos during the press screening, which led social media to quickly characterize its reception as poor. “At the morning screening, some journalists booed and whistled, and I learned the day after that they were Russian journalists," says Hazanavicius. "That made it seem very negative because just after the screening some journalist tweeted, ‘The movie has been booed,’ and actually, I’m proud of those boos. I have no problem being whistled and booed by some Russian patriotic journalist."

The film still is searching for U.S. distribution. “Critics are one thing, but I expect more from the audience,” says the director. “I hope the American distributors will go into the theaters with the audience and see how the real audience reacts."