Annette ★★★½

Less than qualified to actually assess Annette’s musical roots the ideal way — unraveling its hefty cultural capital the same way as one might attempt late-Godard — but this might actually prove a blessing; sans the nitty-gritty points of self-referentiality that Carax no doubt imbues with tragic personality, his outrageous rock-opera decodes fervency through frigidity, raw emotion through glamorous artifice, frequently — nay, always — teetering between two diametric ends in a marriage bound to crash upon its destined waves. The result? The titular girl, literally, both a gentle miracle and an object of uncanny alienation, forced into this strange world with both her parents’ hands in her being (Driver’s actively tormented, Cotillard’s passively redemptive), and forcing out a tonally jarring chorus of discordant rage and love, defiance and reverence, just like the film itself does. Embracing Sparks’ exuberant melodies with an artistic want very much his own, Carax once again explores the overlapping worlds of theatricality and reality through no less overt an avenue as the path to stardom; the literal nature of Annette’s musical, proving irksome to some degree, also underscores a valiant (and audacious) push for authenticity amidst artifice, a reverse-alienation not unlike Eugène Green’s shot-reverse-shot game-plan. Will see this again to wrestle with more of its bountiful ideas, but closing thoughts for now: that it opens with a track bustling with euphoria, heralding a universe both fictionalised and future-bound (also the film to open Cannes after a year proclaimed to be cinema’s death; “so may we start”), and concludes with an impotent plea (“Stop watching me”) in the aftermath of one wholly unexpected, impossibly devastating sequence, with a slew of autocritique and re-enactments in between; is there any other living director doing this?

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