Annette ★★★★

Operatic, absurdist, fueled by anger, possessed by genius, and still not (on first viewing, at least) as cohesive as Carax’s best work, this still has more vitality, surprise, and aesthetic ambition than anything I’ve seen in a while. 

The Amazon logo has barely left the screen before Carax lets you know that this is no ordinary musical. The opening is a giddy, sharp-witted jolt, a promise the movie intermittently fulfills. 

He plays with artifice throughout. A sea storm is depicted with an obvious rear projection, and it made me catch my breath at its vertiginous beauty. 

Then there’s the artifice of the title character. So much emotion, something unspeakably touching, gets captured. She’s a sublime creation and, unfortunately, the only emotionally complex character other than Driver’s. 

And Driver is phenomenal. In his Vegas monologue, he takes wild chances, literally throwing himself around the stage, barely dressed, both predatory and vulnerable. He’s an intense presence, and this and his great work in Paterson make me think that he functions best in non-realist settings. 

Since it’s so far from a traditional musical, I don’t fully get the criticism that the songs aren’t memorable. They aren’t, but they serve their function of moving the story forward and upward, high above Planet Earth.

UPDATE: Next day, and this song has been in my head all morning.

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