Michael Violet’s review published on Letterboxd:
A shower of narcissism almost from beginning to end. Carax not only recognizes the inherent fundamental creepiness of the Americana musical and its respective numbers but treats it so matter-of-factly that he doesn’t seem to really care about people who come in unprimed with this sentiment beforehand. The comparisons to David Lynch are understandable but a bit off since Lynch generally prefers not to give the entity a proper chance to speak its mind (probably for the better), whereas Carax is more than happy to watch the entity gobble up as much in its way as it wants knowing full well its only a matter of time before it vomits everything up. There’s a particular underlying quality to the craftsmanship that overwhelms once it makes contact with the senses but will every once in a while pop in with a question or two. Cottilard’s birth of the titular character must be the cleanest birth in film next to Pieces of a Woman as the camera sweeps in a pendulum fashion all across the space, and Driver and Cotillard’s incessant repeating that they love each other as they violently smack each other’s faces into the other while they “kiss” serve as another chip in the vase every time the phrase is said.
I have to concede I have no idea how Cotillard’s character is meant to fit into this puzzle. It’s unlikely that Carax views her as a victim of a system but it’s also how he seems to utilize her in the second half. Driver by comparison has a much less conflicting or more direct image as everything wrong with the world inside the screen. Carax gives him every shovel he can to dig himself deeper until he is meters down and he gleefully smacks a lid on top, as he does not give a rat’s ass about anyone in this collage—expect the character in the title. Annette’s aversion to nuance is at the forefront throughout (“IT’S EXPLOITATION!”) which makes the anger behind it feel all the more tangible and explosive. As much complexity is appreciated, sometimes it’s not the most cathartic option. Sometimes you just have to come out swinging.