Annette: “It may be Adam Driver’s best performance yet”
The 74th Cannes Film Festival, with a jury headed by Spike Lee and Jodie Foster as their recipient of the lifetime achievement award, opened with Leos Carvax’s Annette. The director returns to the festival after his 2012 film Holy Motors competed for the Palm d’Or. Starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as Henry and Ann, he is a successful but erratic and controversial stand-up and she is the genius opera singer, adored and admired for her grace and beauty. As the two fall in love, get married and have a daughter, Annette, the newborn draws out the true nature of her parents.
Told through dialogue and singing, this film is a eccentric mix of theatre, music, comedy, opera, all woven together to form a depraved and twisting tale of greed and ego. Henry’s success painfully declines as he rambles on stage about murdering his wife whilst Ann only grows more adored, and the disparity between their success is the catalyst for their Greek-style tragedy, where every character ends up unhappy – if they’re not already dead.
Annette takes the term “bizarre” to a whole new level. It’s a musical with supernatural, fantastical elements but is then intercepted with hyper-realistic chunks of celebrity culture. In one scene, Marion Cotillard is singing to her baby (who is a wooden doll by the way) gracefully stroking Annette’s sculpted face around their LA green theme hideaway and then it immediately cuts to a TMZ style news bulletin, engrossed in minor details about celebrities lives. It seems to be making a commentary on current celebrity culture, with the eventual turn of the plot somewhat resembling the career of Britney Spears.
So, the line between fantasy and realism is by no means fine, but this is still a masterful film. It may be Adam Driver’s best performance yet and definitely his most demanding. The camerawork pairs perfectly with the rhythm of the music with a particularly impressive scene of The Conductor (Simon Helberg) detailing his affection for Ann taking breaks to lead the orchestra to a particularly intense part of a symphony, all whilst the camera circles his head, capturing every emotion from sorrow for his lost love to utter passion for his craft.
Perhaps one of the most original pictures of the year so far with immaculate direction and two devoted lead performances, a strong start to the return of Cannes.
Annette does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Annette here: