Annette ★★

I know this was written in 2010 or something, before the great record Hippopotamus at any rate, but I still fear orchestral Sparks is hitting the wall of diminishing returns, as happened in their new wave period. A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip showed a pivot back to harder rock but it still wasn't good. I do suspect some solo OST listens will improve my opinion on the music itself though...but I am listening right now and Adam Driver is harder to excuse without his physical presence, so perfect an heir to Denis Lavant in Carax's work. For me there's only really one Great track (She's Out of This World!) either way, and nothing otherwise that even touches The Final Derriere from The Forbidden Room.

Both artists DO put in good work: the music never reaches Hippopotamus heights but has distinct innovations and Carax drunkenly swoons in a becoming register. There's enough in pure highlights to prevent a real loss, but this pretty much never really sings. I hate to do this, but I have to honestly identify the real culprit here as the Maels' screenplay. It isn't funny!! How is the standup comedian not funny? Every inch of the comedy is abstracted to death by both Sparks and Carax. While probably the most uniquely cinematic part of the film, fleshing out Sparks' recent interest in the musicality of the spoken word, Henry's stand up sets are crickets. When they do attempt comedy, it's pure cliche. It's fair to expect Sparks to make with the funny; even their woeful late 80s period was still funny. Carax is hardly strained serious, here or elsewhere, though he does tend to play his oddities stonefaced.

But the real problem here is, despite the singing, floating puppet baby, there isn't really enough strangeness here to sustain Un Film de Leos Carax. While 2 decades of this Sparks period (yes, already! though not without detour (FFS, ASDDD)) has wrung the genre dry, and Carax has Great pictures under his belt, this ends up a...strained marriage? Structurally, the need to keep with what is an astonishingly complete musical narrative hamstrings Carax from his trademark spontaneity. Had this remained a purely auditory work it likely would've truly impressed, and not needed added comedy. But also when explicated visually and by one of the Weirdest filmmakers working, it falls flat! Two of the most idiosyncratic artists of their respective mediums butt up against each other and the result is about on par with the strained capital-c Cult works of the notorious Sion Sono. Huge disappointment on this initial viewing, but I likely have enough pure Sparks (and Carax) affinity to return to the well for fair refreshment here. Edit: WRONG. I dislike it more every day.

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