Annette

Annette ★★★

How can you not have at least some admiration for a rock opera about (*SPOILER WARNING)… a homicidal Bo Burnham type confessional singing rapping performance artist comedian in a bathrobe played by Adam Driver in full gangly masculinity-drowned orangutan “Girls” character mode who falls in love with an angelic opera singer played by Marion Cotillard and sings passionate duets with her while passionately going down on her until they celebrate the birth of their puppet baby who remains safely below deck as daddy drowns mommy in a tragic storm-tossed yacht accident after which puppet baby becomes an international pop icon due to mommy haunting daddy with her voice through the puppet baby until daddy kills the puppet baby’s musical conductor and goes to prison and fails to earn the forgiveness of the puppet baby turned real live girl? 
        I mean how can you not have some admiration for it? Well, you can’t. ANNETTE’s occasional brilliance and absolutely untethered creativity are undeniable, just as it was in Carax’s HOLY MOTORS. But…how can it not be a masterpiece? The answer is: Even if there are some fascinating ideas and images and even scenes in here, Carax and the Sparks have executed an anti-musical of sorts that too often uses strangeness as a crutch, adding bizarre offbeat frills that sometimes feels arbitrary and weird for the sake of being arbitrary and weird, to a story that is—on its own, without half the surrealist touches and blurring between reality and art—a moving, haunting, and brilliant conceit and narrative structure for Carax and the Sparks’ commentary on society’s artifice, fame and tabloid culture, toxic masculinity, and exploitative parenthood.  In other words, part of me wishes I could have seen the basic narrative from this opera in either a more conventional melodrama or a non musical surrealist film. 
        That said, there are scenes of artistic genius in here (and I may eventually decide that the whole thing is genius): in particular, the opening sequence (like the church-set accordion interlude from Holy Motors, why are Carax’s greatest musical scenes always the ones where the stars march towards the camera playing instruments?)….the storm tossed yacht setpiece….the scenes of puppet baby Annette singing, especially performing in full stadiums, the early “call and response” singing of the paparazzi and Henry’s audience…and above all the unnervingly moving finale with the most precocious singing little girl in history.