Posts Tagged ‘Leos Carax’

Adam Driver, Marian Cotillard

“ANNETTE”  My rating: C(Amazon Prime)

141 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Film festival veterans know how under those pressure-cooker circumstances public and critical praise can be showered on a movie which, once it hits the theaters, goes down in flames.  

Here’s the deal…when you’re watching four to six feature films a day, the critical faculties get blunted.  Before long you’re turning to your companions and asking: ”Is this any good?  I can’t tell any more.”

Such appears to be the case with Leos Carax’s “Annette,” which was the darling of this year’s Cannes Film Festival and last week debuted on Amazon Prime to near-universal head scratching.

I won’t call the movie a failure, exactly.  On many levels it is arresting. It’s got a fearless performance from Adam Driver. Great visuals.

Basically I admire “Annette” without actually liking it.

But it says something when the online chatter is filled with viewers describing the point in “Annette” when they could take no more and looked for other entertainments. It’s like some sort of cinematic ice bucket challenge in reverse.

The object of all this flapdoodle is a show-biz romance (you could call it a perversion of “A Star Is Born”) told largely through carefully choreographed set pieces and musical numbers.

The film was written by the musical brothers Ron and Russell Mael, whose long-running rock band Sparks has a worldwide cult following. 

 In fact. the film’s long opening tracking shot begins in an LA recording studio where Carax sits in the control booth while the Mael Brothers perform surrounded by the film’s cast. Then everybody gets up, still singing, and marches down the street.  By the end of the song the actors have donned their costumes and the film proper is ready to begin.

The first 40 minutes follow the romance of Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), a standup comic, and operatic soprano Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard).  

He’s a brooding dude who buzzes around town atop a motorcycle in dark clothes and a feature-hiding helmet…like one of Death’s messengers from Cocteau’s “Orpheus.”  His live act is equally intimidating…he bounces on stage in a fighter’s hooded robe, and spends most of his time sighing and insulting the audience.  It’s less traditional standup than performance art…imagine Andy Kauffman as a mean-spirited misanthrope. (It’s at this point that most folks will bail.)

Ann, on the other hand, is a classic diva, beloved of fans and treated as musical royalty.  

It’s sort of a beauty and the beast relationship.

Anyway, Henry and Ann woo and wed (their affair is chronicled in “Entertainment Tonight”-type news segments) and eventually become parents.

Simon Helberg with Baby Annette

Their baby is called Annette and she’s played — at least until the very last scene — by a series of eerily realistic puppets.

Enter an an old show business cliche: Ann’s career continues to soar while Henry’s flounders.  He was always a grumpy s.o.b., but this has turned him boozy-violent.  During a family boating trip tragedy strikes…or is it murder?

Anyway, Henry finds himself a single parent. And when he discovers that Baby Annette (still a puppet, right?) has the singing voice of an angel, he launches a worldwide tour to capitalize on the mania.

Basically it’s child abuse.

There’s a third character here, Ann’s conductor and one-time paramour (Simon Helberg) who stuck around after she took up with Henry and now serves as a buffer between the little girl and her domineering and manipulative father. It’s not a good place to be.

“Annette” has no shortage of themes and ideas, and is peppered with visual showstoppers (the musical score left me underwhelmed)…but it never engaged the emotions, never made me care.  

The movie belongs to Driver, whose Henry is some sort of ego-driven monster.  He’s undeniably good, but it’s a thankless enterprise. The better he is at his job, the more we despise his character.

| Robert W. Butler

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