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The Hollywood Insider Annette Review, Marion Cotillard, Adam Driver, Leos Carax, Cannes

Photo: ‘Annette’/Amazon

Throughout 2021 thus far we have had a number of good, some may even say great films premiere on the silver screen; ‘Pig’, ‘The Green Knight’, ‘The Mitchell’s vs. The Machines’, ‘Ailey’, all films worthy of the acclaim levied upon them. However, upon reflection, these are all somewhat straightforward films – This is to say that, both narratively and figuratively, they are exactly what they present, you need not search for an intermediate meaning concealed within the lines of dialogue. What you see is what you get; there is certainly nothing wrong with this sentiment, but finally, today, ‘Annette’ irrevocably denies that classification as it masterfully demonstrates an eloquent understanding and usage of metaphor. 

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‘Annette’ from Director Leos Carax, whom I had the absolute pleasure of sitting in on a question and answer series at the IFC Center in Manhattan, is, as mentioned, seemingly an absurdist black comedy at its onset. Do not mistake the word absurd to mean some overripe discharge of flamboyant humor, rather consider it in its philosophical context: intentionally ridiculous or bizarre behavior or character (As characterized by the Oxford Dictionary). ‘Annette’ is subdued in its absurdity; some things will be just bizarre enough to confuse the audience: “Am I meant to laugh at this or be appalled?” I can’t really even tell if this is a joke or not.” you find yourself saying to yourself within your plush chair at the local cinema. This is the beauty of ‘Annette’, half of the audience laughs boisterously every few minutes and half the audience is mortally silent. It only becomes truly clear in the closing scenes what the motivation of the absurd truly was. 

Spoiler Alert: It’s in service of a touching and resonant emotional journey. 

Metaphorical Magic

There will be a few thoughts discussed within this passage that may spoil parts of the film, so if you intend to see it perhaps consider skipping to the next segment.

From the very onset of the film, metaphor is present in an ambiguous, almost meta sort of fashion. The film opens with a musical number aptly titled So May We Start where the cast breaks the fourth wall and sings directly to the audience, almost seeking approval to start the film. It is illusory, disarming, and sets the stage for the absurdity that ensues. This number is not exactly a metaphor by definition, but it certainly is done for the same purpose and provides the same result as any good metaphor intends; to allude to something unlike what it is you are showing. This serves as an introduction to the type of metaphorical and experiential experience that ‘Annette’ will further provide throughout its 2 hours and 20 minutes run time. It’s bizarre, it’s over-the-top, and most importantly, it’s subversive. 

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There is one concept that is studied throughout the film that grows as the film grows and evolves as the film evolves and that is the outlandishly unsettling puppet that is the titular character, Annette. Once Henry and Ann give birth to a child it is portrayed on screen by a marionette puppet. It is bizarre, it is unnerving, and it is deeply metaphorical. Throughout the runtime I questioned if I actually liked Ann and Henry, questioning their motivation and their actualized love for their daughter. As the film progressed I was pleased to understand that I was correct in this observation, watching them both use Annette as a means to an end.

The couple never truly views Annette as human, so why even characterize her as human when all she is to them was literally a puppet. The puppet aspect of the film is played relatively straight all the way until the final scene which allows audiences to find it much more humorous than they would normally. The humor of the awkward appearance of the singing puppet allows people to avoid the reality of what is really going on and only once Henry finds himself in prison is he able to see his daughter for who she really was. 

Adam Driver Supremacy

There are few humans on planet earth who have had a better stretch than Adam Driver’s last two years. In chronological order, Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’, then the Noah Baumbach Oscar-nominated performance in ‘Marriage Story’, afterward he secured a massive payday with the final installment of the Skywalker Saga in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ and now he presents ‘Annette.’

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This is all a precursor to the films he has concluded production on and is awaiting theatrical release, ‘The Last Duel’ from the mind of Ridley Scott, ‘The House of Gucci’ and another Noah Baumbach film titled ‘White Noise’ coming out in 2022. With each passing performance, Driver proves his value as a nontraditional superstar. Each role is unique, performative, and resonant. His acting skill is as vast and deep as any other leading man available today and his powerful, Herculean stature really separates him from the rest of his contemporaries. I firmly believe Adam Driver is one of, if not the best actor in Hollywood, today.

It is exactly that performative streak and impressive build that make Driver perfect for the larger-than-life caricature that is Henry McHenry in ‘Annette.’ He plays a stand-up comic with a bit of a mean streak who is seemingly a caring and sensuous husband but also a pop culture sex symbol. Driver commands the screen at all times, especially in moments when you would least expect. He has absolute control over the entire range of his emotions, truly excelling when inundating himself, demonstrating his borderline unnerving ability to be both utterly masculine but wholly impassioned. Driver is truly one of those unique talents that is capable of any and all types of performances, reaching deep within himself to coalesce with the character he takes on. His roles are so powerful because he seems to be playing himself; he takes the character and its motivations and feels them within himself, adapting and morphing his own experience and feelings to better become who we see on screen. 

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No, No, Annette

The bold and totally unique musical from avant-garde director Leos Carax is sure to be one of the more divisive films of the year. It is absurd, it is unlike any other film releasing this year, and it is bold in its provocation. It really resonated with me, personally, but I can certainly see why and how specific audience members would leave the theater with differing experiences and opinions with respect to the film. ‘Annette’ is one of my favorite films of the year and I would strongly recommend it to anyone. I would however include a disclaimer that it is not for everyone and that my recommendees may in fact find out that they hated it. 

Director: Leos Carax

Song Writer: Sparks

Writers: Ron Mael, Russell Mael

Producer: Charles Gillibert

By Tyler Sear

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