Annette ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I was so ready to be disappointed. Considering the emotional journey I went through to be able to watch this thing, it seemed inevitable that Leos Carax’ Annette couldn’t live up to my massive expectations. After reading positive press about Annette since last summer and all the reviews of my foreign LB friends throughout last fall I was more than amped up, but waiting for good arthouse films is nothing new when you live in Denmark. Then cinemas scheduled screenings in the middle of my exams, and when I finally had time, Nationwide lockdowns was imposed and cinemas closed down for Christmas break to the middle of January. The expiration date of vaccine passports was then shortened going into the new year and before I could get it renewed, the film was pushed out of cinemas in my part of the country by the backlog of new releases that had accumulated in the past month. It got NINE DAYS in total on the silver screen here. FUCK THAT. I then decided to import the blu ray from the UK and that was OF COURSE delayed in the post by another month. I finally got my hands on it two weeks ago and HALLELUJAH it’s fantastic. Well worth the wait and this is the best experience I’ve had with a film in quite a while. Leos Carax literally never misses. Yeah he’s only made six films in Five decades, but they’re pretty much all amazing.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film quite like Annette. It’s a Rock Opera, a family drama and a showbusiness satire and absurdist meta-fiction all-rolled into one batshit 2 hour and 20-minute headtrip scored by the mighty Sparks. One of my most common criticism in my Letterboxd reviews is when a film feels like a collection of great moments instead of a continuous stream, and where Annette probably tends to fall in the former category, it somehow still works brilliantly here. The film jumps through the screen and attacks you from every angle, whether it’s with the weirdo needledrops, Adam Driver’s absurdist standup routine, the lavish musical numbers, the special effects or the emotionally charged story. There’s ideas here for five films and while they’re not always totally fleshed out (which definitely feels intentional), it still doesn’t matter because this kind of rad creativity will eat you alive. Carax, Driver, Cotillard and the brothers Mael of Sparks throws glam-rock fireballs at your face and it’s honestly a joy to desperately try and keep up. I’m writing this eleven days after I’ve watched it and this film still lives within me.

However, the thing that really floored me was the emotion and heart of the story in the midst of all the beautiful chaos. It feels natural to interpret the story in the light of Carax’ partner Yekaterina Golubeva’s tragic suicide ten years prior to the release of Annette. Marion Cotillard’s character is described as ‘dying so beautifully’ during her opera performances, Carax survivors guilt feels apparent when Adam Driver’s Henry McHenry sails the family into stormy waters during Ann’s final moments, and then Henry McHenry milks his family history for all the world to see in a last attempt of revitalizing a stalling career which definitely puts Holy Motors in a startling new light for me. When he’s finally placed in jail for his crimes and the film is dedicated to his daughter Nastya (who cameos in the meta opening), Annette feels like the story of a fathers attempt at reconciling with his daughter after a tragedy tore them apart, while also being a story of a great artist’s reckoning with a troubled past. Insanity and sincerity walks hand in hand in here, which makes Annette a fantastic, unparalleled experience.

The reason I’m not giving this a perfect grade is that the plotting leaves a little to be desired and the film feels somewhat bloated. The same goes for Sparks otherwise solid score, which is a proof that you can have too much of a good thing. In terms of the mis-en-scene it’s probably not as consistent as Carax’ other works. However, in terms of pure vision it’s equal- if not above Holy Motors- and if you compare it to 99% of others directors work, it still blows that out of the water. I feel like a spoiled little brat here, because if any other director had made this it would surely have been a 5. Perhaps it will be on a future rewatch, because I can’t stop thinking about it.

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