Directed by Leos Carax
Screenplay by Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Leos Carax, story by Ron Mael, Russell Mael
Starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell
A number of thoughts entered my subconscious as Leos Carax’s “Annette” unfolded in front of me, a starkly beautiful film about two individuals passionately in love with each other when their world is turned upside down.
Dark and brooding, it is something that I would expect after seeing Edgar Wright’s “The Sparks Brothers” earlier this summer. I found brothers Russell and Ron Mael to be innovative and edgy, but not to the point that they were offensive. Co-writing the screenplay with Leos Carax, the Maels deliver the goods with “Annette” in terms of being edgy and innovative, provocative and alluring. Their passion for their craft is on full display.
However, before I get too deep into this review, it is Father Confession time (see “Nine Days” if you need a palate cleanser) – I have never seen a Leos Carax film, so I have no basis in which to compare his direction with any of his other films. I do, however, have a comparison for the Mael’s works, which when I think about it and their music, made me extremely happy.
Carax, who won Best Director at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival, offers a brilliant display of jaded humor and wonderfully dark, dramatic opera, namely in Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard’s performances. Driver plays Henry McHenry, a rambunctious stand-up comedian who dispels his displeasure with the world on a bemused audience. He is jovial, yet something lurks beneath his skin. His body language and an “I don’t give a f$^&” attitude display his impudence toward life. In other performances, Driver can come across dryly. I appreciate the dryness and find him to be a quiet, powerful and humorous force on screen. As Henry, his performance is one of the best this year.
Marion Cotillard shines as Ann Defrasnoux, a famous soprano whose lust for life and for Henry matches his disdain for the human condition. Passionate to the last, Carax keeps the camera moving throughout the film while Sparks’ songs infuse a fluidity of its own, giving the characters an unexpected life of its own.
It is easier to say that the movie is conducted rather than narrated, and filling that role is Simon Helberg as, ironically, The Conductor. Helberg ushers us into each act and the movie doesn’t slow down to let us catch our breath. That’s in keeping with Ron and Russell Mael’s style. The duo wrote original songs for the film, which I would classify as a musical fantasy. The music was so good, I wanted to rush out to my record store to buy the soundtrack. I suppose I could have rushed to my computer. The fabric of the film is so tactile, that I wanted something tangible to hold on to, especially when the film premieres on Amazon Prime on August 20th.
While the Sparks’ music lulls you into the world that Carax has created, Carax drops little pieces, clues if you will, to Henry and Ann’s lives, especially when their daughter, Annette comes along. “Annette” is a deeply affecting story, one that I’m thrilled to recommend.
It isn’t for everyone though. It’s best to go into the movie cold, without having read a review or the press from Cannes. It is ironic that I’m asking you not to read this review before you see the movie, yet I still want to attract an audience. That’s the power of “Annette,” Leos Carax’ stunning first English-language film. Try as you might, you won’t pick up on everything that Carax or the Mael’s put out there.
“Annette” has an urgent vitality in its vivid opera full of sound and fury. You might be furious with me for Highly Recommending the film, or you might not. However you feel, your feet will most likely be tapping to the sounds of Sparks when the house lights come up (or you turn on your own lights to grab a snack while watching it at home later this month.)
R, 139 minutes, Amazon Studios/UGC Distribution