Annette ★★★★½

There's a slight chance I'm giving this more credit than it deserves - there's a solid 10-minute stretch dedicated to stand-up routines that does nothing but reveal how much the very concept of them annoys the filmmakers, and the movie doesn't get into full gear until after the 30-minute mark. But honestly, I'll be damned if I see a more audacious and enthralling piece of cinema this year. From minute one, it does a phenomenal job at projecting the experiences of those who perform onstage onto this large canvas. On top of the songs that are somehow both simplistic and elaborate, the movie embraces the artifice of performance through strong visual cues (the appearance of the title character is one such example). And just when you think it's comfortable with creating a fabricated world, the second half injects a level of harshness that reminds you of the flawed humanity within.

As someone who did not expose themselves to the films of Leos Carax or the music of Sparks prior to seeing this, nearly every moment felt invigorating. If the oddly catchy tunes didn't make me sink into the film's world, then the deliberate fakeness of the visuals did. I suspect the general audience would prefer to watch something less unhinged. But for myself, I'm all for the insanity that this movie musters up.

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