I'm struck by how idiosyncratic this film feels, though I suppose it should not come as a surprise after already having seen Holy Motors.

Visually, Annette is rather strange but memorable. The film runs through a number of setting changes, which if you reverse-storyboarded them would make for a nice array of images full of color. The other thing is that this film looks very flat; this seems like a deliberate choice as there are a number of scenes that are shot from odd angles or on a soundstage, which is neither hidden nor betrayed by the production value. My impression is that this was to replicate the histrionics and feel of opera or a musical.

With regard to direction, not everything works for me; mostly I have to consider the decision to dictate the characters' thoughts and narrative placement to the audience through song. It happens enough that it ceases to be a gimmick and must be evaluated as an intentional, inseparable feature of the narrative. Again, this seems reminiscient of something that takes place on a theater stage, but it is not at all nuanced or skillful, and the fourth-wall breaks are curious still because the overall tone of the film is sober and serious. I'm not taken out of the film in those moments, just a little puzzled and amused. Still, there are some scenes that work remarkably well despite this: the storm scene, the second time we Henry "perform stand-up" and seeing into his mind's eye as he rides off into the night, the courtroom scene, and the prison visitation are all incredible and compelling. So it's curious to hold those important scenes, which definitely work, alongside the ones that set them up but are a little clunky.

I'd like to revisit this one again, for sure.

4/5 stars

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