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Film Review: Annette
by Marinell Haegelin

Leos Carax, France|Germany|Belgium 2021

French director Leos Carax always wanted to make a musical film, as have American pop and rock duo, The Sparks. Ron and Russell Mael came close: with Tim Burton in the 1980s, Francis Copola in the 1990s, they recorded the 1998 soundtrack for KNOCK OFF/action-film, and released a radio musical in 2009 (they hoped would metamorphose into a feature film). Hence, creating the eponymous ANNETTE, like fresh air blowing through moviemaking, melded their artistic mindsets.

An acerbic, insulting stand-up comedian, Henry (a magnificently maniacal Adam Driver) pounces at life onstage issuing tirades of personalized vulgarity, while defaming societal temples. Offstage he hurtles carelessly head-on through life. A poignantly pitched, renowned opera singer, Ann’s (Marion Cotillard) warmth, considerations, and conscientiousness enthrall fans. Chauffeured to/from life’s engagements, she's universally adored. The polar opposites marry. Each at his/her career pinnacle; “We love each other so much.” Newscasters salivate. Ann gives birth; “She’s out of this world, welcome to the world, Annette.” But. Things change. Ann tours abroad accompanied by Conductor (Simon Helberg). Henry’s fathering falters, hits a skid; Ann laments, “I’m worried about you.” A getaway gets its way, and then there are two. Until the magical lamp. Annette’s voice is angelic; Henry cashes in. Conductor conducts a whirlwind European concert tour. A quiet Annette grows quizzical, acclimates, performs, accommodates. Culminating how? Warranted comeuppance.

Carax’s meager—15 shorts/music videos/features since 1980—and notable oeuvre’s an amalgamation of strange preposterousness incarnate, and masterful. The Sparks brothers’ genesis is their eclectic, somewhat eccentric background, but their genius is how continual their unconventional styles have evolved since 1971, while influencing numerous genres, singers, and bands along the way.

Fantastically zany, ANNETTE’s overture portends major calamities, oratorical frankness, and originality. With its impeccable acting, sterling production values, and brilliant music, having reviewed Edgar Wright’s amazing documentary, THE SPARKS BROTHERS, my expectations were rewarded.