wrymereo’s review published on Letterboxd:
My 200th film of the year.
This reminds me a lot more of old Greek tragedies or Shakespearean plays than any grandstanding musicals. In those plays as well, the characters were driven by gods, or a supernatural "pull" towards the evil that they commit much like "the abyss" for Henry. Henry himself is obviously a poster-boy anti-hero, deeply paranoid and also deeply human. Choruses were a mainstay in Greek plays, and we have the Sparks here. Ghosts and the supernatural haunt everywhere in this film, including a group of "witches" who forebode a tragedy that is to come by appearing in Ann's dream. Ann is a one-dimensional foil for Henry, like many leading women of old plays. We also have the sidekick, good-natured and a voice of consicnece who nevertheless ends up getting compromised and pays for it grievously.
The movie itself is very messy and too long for its own good. But Leos Carax is one of the only few working filmmakers who is able to push the very limits of cinema as an artform, deconstructing each and every facet (which peaked in Holy Motors) with not only wit, but with a flurry of style and virtuoso craftsmanship. Even when he becomes self-indulgent, he's never *not* entertaining to watch. And that's why I don't think I was ever bored while watching 'Annette' even though it is so flawed. Special mention to the use of music, which was sometimes just plain hilarious. I've read a lot of criticism about how the music was bad and it's lyrics were so redundant. And I feel amused by that because I thought that was very much an intentional choice. Its an un-musical. The lyrics superficially explain in the mosrt obvious words what's going on in the scene. In so many parts Driver isn't singing at all, just saying the lyrics in key. This is to deconstruct what musicals do, which is to tell us plot instead of the dialogue. The same goes for the stand-up parts where Driver doesn't really make jokes, they are just comments he makes. Sometimes exploiting someone from the audience itself. Annette being literally a doll throughout the film is the very peak of this same trend in satirization.
That isn't to say that it is all excused. Even though its deconstructing the nature of songs in musicals, the songs in the film never the less outstay their welcome often. I believe 20 mins of the film could be cut without losing anything major.
And Adam Driver continues to rise in the ranks of the most talented actors working together. I haven't seen Paterson yet, but from everything else I've seen of him, this is my favourite performance of his. Honest and raw with a lot of range and never really getting flashy ala 'Marriage Story', as of now he's a lock-in for an Academy nomination. As is Annette at my #1 for the year so far, even if it is my least favourite of the three Carax films I have seen.