Annette ★★★½

You can never predict what Leos Carax, the maverick French director who seems to work on a schedule of one feature film per decade, is going to do next and I highly doubt that a Hollywood rock opera written by Sparks would have been anyone's guess, but here we are and the result is as downright bizarre, as beautifully bonkers as you'd expect from the man who made Holy Motors.

Carax's cinematic maximalism is a great fit for such operatic material, the extreme artifice of this sweeping romance both drawing on the fakery of the golden age musical and reconfiguring it to delirious new heights—there's a thin line between love and madness and this isn't such a big departure for Carax, whose previous work explores similarly tortured love stories through a playful lens which reflect the irrationality of human emotion. It's a film stuffed with intertextual references, though as always, the director doesn't force audiences to use their intellect, but rather their response to emotional stimuli and that's perhaps why, despite its occasional frustrating lack of accessibility, you can quite dismiss anything as pretentious. We've reached a point now were a new Carax film is an event itself, another absurd dark fairy-tale filled with grandiose poetry and maddening self-awareness, which no matter what the outcome, is going to be categorically original and entitled to a few flaws along the way.

Physicality of performance is essential in a Carax film and Adam Driver is a fine fit for a role usually occupied by Denis Lavant, able to channel the right combination of spiteful narcissism and empathy, plus he's not a bad singer either and of course Marion Cotillard, still the most beautiful woman on the planet and one of the finest actresses working today, can do no wrong. The soundtrack begins with the catchiest song and features a few memorable numbers but mostly the music is organically woven into the dialogue à la Jacques Demy, serving the story and not the other way around. Annette is a wild ride, one well worth taking, if only to admire its brazen creativity and feverish energy.


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