By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From French filmmaker Leos Carax and the musical duo Sparks, comes a most unique cinematic experience, and one that makes Carax’s English-language debut. Carax and the Sparks brothers have collaborated to make an artistically surreal movie musical that focuses on the relationship between two very different artists and the eventual turbulence they experience. Though I feel that Carax’s film is certainly difficult to completely decipher and appreciate in just one sitting, I can honestly say that I have not at all experienced a film like this one this year.
Adam Driver stars as Henry McHenry, an edgy, but mostly popular stand-up comedian who happens to be in a romantic relationship with one of the world’s most talented and popular opera singers. The opera singer is Anne (Marion Cotillard), a shy, but extremely gifted singer who is riding upward on a major crest of fame and success. As the two performers take the relationship to the next levels, they will encounter many challenges and obstacles ahead. Things seem to drastically change after Anne gives birth to their daughter Annette, a baby who displays a rare gift as she matures from infant to toddler.
I must say that I simply could not peel my eyes away from this beautiful looking and utterly captivating film. As far as visuals are concerned, Carax and cinematographer Caroline Champetier have created a beautiful and gorgeous looking film that superbly captures a mix of the real and surreal expressed in the film. And I must also say that the use of songs and music in the movie works so wonderfully. The experience is strikingly similar to that of an opera in that the movie features a mix of mostly singing with a few moments of spoken words.
And the entire cast delivers incredible performances that feel perfectly in tune with the style of the film. In addition to the stellar work by Driver and Cotillard, the movie also offers wonderful turns by Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell, Angèle, Kiko Mizuhara, Natalie Mendoza, and so many others.
My main complaint with the film has to do with the major turning point it takes. While I feel that tragedy is what Carax hopes to accomplish with this major shift in the film, I don’t think it was executed as concisely as it could have. Also after knowing and experiencing what happens in the film, I was left with a certain feeling of slight disappointment with what the filmmaker was trying to express. It isn’t so much that his emotions aren’t valid, but I feel that so many other movies have tread upon this territory previously.
Nevertheless, I do applaud Leos Carax, Sparks, and all of the talented performers involved for delvering what is essentially a retread, but in a beautifully unique way. The artistry and talent from everyone is undeniable, but I simply wanted a more unique plot to really drive everything home in a much more powerful way. Annette is now playing in select theaters and will be available for streaming via Amazon Prime on August 20, 2021.