Friday, August 20, 2021

Annette: Swings Between “La La Land” and “Moulin Rouge!” Beautifully

By José Alberto Hermosillo

Sublime, and evocative, “Annette” is an artistic avant-garde representation of love and misadventure. 

The opening piece and Best Director winner of this year’s Cannes Film Festival is operatic, original, something we have never seen before!

The spellbinding journey of love, betrayal, and reckoning hold a plethora of symbolism – its splashy and elaborate musical numbers combined with fast-paced editing denote a clear style of maturity in directing and, at the same time, experimental filmmaking.

The narrative becomes existentialist when the main characters’ quest for love and self-realization takes off. They try desperately to find the true meaning to their mundane lives.

The musical kicks off with an emblematic and continuous take from the interior of the recording studio to the busy exterior of the streets of Santa Monica, California. In that magnificent and minimalist overture, we can start recognizing some familiar faces. Along with the main characters is the fancy chorus, and the visionary director Leos Carax (“Holy Motors,”“Mister Lonely”), who introduces the film by playing himself, the music producer. "Annette" is Carax's best work so far.

The romance between the notorious comedian Henry McHenry (Adam Driver) and the acclaimed opera singer Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard) starts as casual dating in Los Angeles, where they lay their love story.

From then on, the attention centers on Henry. In his one-man show, he announces his engagement with Ann.

After Ann’s opera performance, the paparazzi and journalists wait outside the theater. They sing and huddle around the famous couple. Henry and Ann choose to hide their identities under the motorcycle helmets. 

The Hollywood life bring us to a red carpet where they profess their vows, symbolizing their union in matrimony. Ann, the bride, throws out the bouquet to the hungry media, as they exit the scene to continue expressing their love for each other musically in a more secluded location.

The good taste prevails in all musical numbers, even with “We love each other so much” singing while having sex and not in the shower, precisely, like normal people do. Nevertheless, the arrival of theie first baby will change their lives forever.

As their marriage life lingers, the dramatic music elevates the crescendo - suggesting an extramarital affair.

As we mentioned before, the story centers on the distortion and deconstruction of Henry, the infamous and irreverent comedian with low self-esteem and plenty of addictions. Henry’s stand-up shows are worth our full attention because he foreshadows his following steps in his intimate and outrageous monologues.

Ann feels trapped in a toxic relationship. She and her innocent baby named Annette will try to move out, once and for all.

French-born Oscar winner Marion Cotillard is exquisite, delicate, gentle, as her character turns haunting.

Adam Driver’s interpretation is mature in what seems to be the most challenging performance of his career. He exceeds his accomplishments reached in “Marriage Story.”

The music turns obscure as everyone falls into the abysmal series of unfortunate events.

The American pop and rock duo Sparks wrote the complex lyrics and seductive music. The band previously recorded “The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman” to tour, but the logistics to travel with an enormous cast were challenging. Previously, Leos Carax used a Sparks’ song in “Holy Motors.” After they met in Cannes, a few years back, they had decided to work together in this fabulous musical. 

"Annette's" sumptuous cinematography is responsibility of Caroline Champetier. In France, she has done other luminous works such as “Of Gods and Men” and “The Innocents.”

“Annette” is either complacent or disappointing. Set in Los Angeles, the romance has nothing to do with "La La Land," and its musical numbers have no comparison with the frenetic speed of "Moulin Rouge!" Because "Annette" is sober and unique in all senses.

“Annette's” ravishing visuals and originality keep our attention while we are wondering, "what in the world are we watching?"

"Annette" is open to interpretation, and mostly when we reach its shocking, overwhelming, and beautiful grand finale, it is really stunning, and make us think about the importance of karma - because what goes around comes around.

After all, our lives are a lavish musical, where we meet fascinating people, fall in love, marry, have children, watch them grow, make mistakes, and learn from those wrong decisions. - While we regain control of our souls, we may find time to meditate about how our actions affect others profoundly. 

As I finished watching “Annette,” I wanted so desperately to rewind the tape and enjoy it again and again, hoping my faithful readers will dare to do the same.

"Annette" Official trailer

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