Annette, the latest film made by French known director Leos Carax tries to tell the story of a couple that will have a miracle baby.
Leos Carax is one of those filmmakers who doesn’t make a film each year. His last film, Holy Motors, was nothing short of a masterpiece and was premiered back in 2012. Annette is his first English movie and was the opening film of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. In the end, Leos Carax won the Best Director Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Although he was absent from the ceremony.
The film starts with a magnificent musical piece. Every person in the movie appears in this beautiful long-take musical scene. Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), Ann (Marion Cotillard), The Conductor (Simon Helberg), and at the beginning even Leos Carax himself.
Ron and Russell Mael mostly wrote the songs of the film and in some places used their recorded songs. Carax didn’t make a musical film before, but from his previous films, you can understand he has a good taste in music. As a filmmaker who didn’t make any other musical, he did a good job but not a perfect one.
In the beginning, Carax tells the audience to pay full attention and don’t even breathe. So at the start of the film, you feel like you are watching a theater piece with a film set. But it doesn’t take long to realize you were mistaken. This thing happens a lot in the film, but the problem is it’s not in a good way.
Annette does have messy storytelling but that doesn’t mean the story itself is not good. Henry (Driver) is a rising stand-up comedian and Ann (Cotillard) is an opera star. They both have a very good relationship that leads to Ann getting pregnant with Annette. As Annette grows up, Henry’s career is about to end. This leads to some drinking and mental problems. Henry’s actions create a situation in which Ann gets drowned.
Most of the time you feel like even the movie doesn’t understand what it wants to show or tell. Annette is not a movie to see and get a message. But a film that needs to be experienced. Unfortunately, the movie itself doesn’t allow you to sit back and experience the film fully.
It jumps from one subject to another, which hurts the whole idea of experiencing the film. Not only that, but it even ruins the pace of the movie in some places. In the first half of the movie, it’s one of the greatest movies ever. But as time pass, the movie drifts away from its path. Going places that are unnecessary and ignoring the ones that it should visit.
Adam Driver’s genius acting helps the movie a lot. Whether it’s the stand-up comedy, singing or emotional scenes. Although there is a little bit problem with his character arc. Henry McHenry is madly in love with Ann. He almost worships her. So which good reason is there that leads to Henry killing Ann?
The Ape of God, the name of the show that Henry plays, starts with him talking about the Abyss and why he is a comedian. Now, someone who deals with strong and deep ideas such as the Abyss and death needs a much more powerful reason to kill his wife. Not just a career failure.
It doesn’t take long to realize the film is surreal. It’s one of the things I admire about Annette. Caroline Champetier is the cinematographer of this film. She was also the cinematographer of Holy Motors. Just like Holy Motors, the cinematography of Annette is magnificent. Each scene was captured in a very poetic way.
The sex scene between Ann and Henry is the most poetic of them all. It’s so intense and passionate. It’s like they captured the mind of a poet who describes his lovemaking to his lover. Not only this but almost every surreal scene is shot poetically. It either has a metaphor or the movement of the camera is avant-garde.
One of the scenes that works so well as a metaphor but silently ruins the character arc of Henry is when he performs that tickling scene in his stand-up. The tickling is a metaphor for love. He says he killed his wife with love in a very dark way. But he also says I can’t love myself. Loving myself is like tickling myself. It doesn’t have any effect on me.
It’s so deep, right? But if he is so smart to pull a joke like that, why would he kill his wife? It’s this paradoxical thing in the film that causes the main issue. If one scene is a good lever for a character arc, that scene has no value as a cinematography aspect.
One of the greatest metaphors of the film is Annette herself. His parents see her as a piece of wood that moves, like Pinocchio. Both of them sees her not as a person or human being, but as a tool to achieve something. Her mother uses her as a tool of revenge and his dad as a tool to make money. It’s so on point and it was shown beautifully too. And the scene where Henry looks at her from the small window is so heartbreaking.
I believe because Leos Carax didn’t write the whole story by himself and got help from Ron Mael and Russel Mael, he couldn’t show what he wanted. The first half of the film and especially the first half-hour is a masterpiece. But in the second half of the film, you feel like Carax finished the movie, just for the sake of finishing it.
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Annette has a very good idea behind it but unfortunately, Carax couldn’t show it as well as I anticipated. Its messy storytelling and Henry’s character arc are the main problems of the movie. The surreal theme has helped the movie in many ways but in some places only made the story messier. Although Annette is a very emotional and poetic movie. The cinematography of Caroline Champetier is in service of film’s poetry. Annette is not a movie most will enjoy, but it has some quite wonderful scenes for those who cherish the art of cinema.