Annette (2021)

Though its powerful iconographic fantasia of strikingly hyper-manicured Caraxian shots galvanize the eye, Annette is a hypnagogic rock-opera of experimental styles in purgatory, ~drowning a godly cast of Driver & Cotillard-led indie heavy-hitters in minor-keys. 7.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: Los Angeles – Henry McHenry (Adam Driver) is a stand-up comedian with a fierce sense of humor who falls in love with Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotilard), a world-renowned opera singer. Under the spotlight, they form a passionate and glamorous couple. With the birth of their first child — a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny — their lives are turned upside down.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

The Last [Straw]

The Date Of Dec. 15, 2017 Spelled Doom For The Disney x Star Wars Consortium, But Possibilities For A Driver Able To Weaponize The Exposure & Evolve Past Blockbusters

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

We’ll always remember the date: December 15, 2017. After The Force Awakens’ return to the wonder, magic, & spectacle that made the world fall in love with Ep. IV of Star Wars 40+ years ago by pure modernized sci-fi/fantasy adventure with engaging new characters, mystery inklings, and breathtaking 21st-century VFX/CGI, the hype on opening night of The Last Jedi [flamed by a provocative title-and-marketing combination] was palpable. The audience was full of smiles as the iconic opening credits-crawl trumpeted onto screen, but those smiles soon turned straight, upside-down, and then into shock-aghast as we witnessed a pretentious, backwards trainwreck of mindless subversion trading purpose and any semblance of plot for forced quips, p(ORG)duct placement, awful new characters, & an offensive script spitting in the face of all original Star Wars-lore. Though TROS was a love-letter apology to the fanbase, it couldn’t quite fix the destruction done to Disney’s sequel-trilogy, and we wept – especially for how badly it wasted such a great cast of intangibles. Foremost was Adam Driver: a perfect Vader-esque antagonist whose dark, brooding energy screamed indie kingdom manifest destiny we could not wait to be unleashed onto the world of cinema post-Ep. IX’s end credits. Here, we get a ~glimpse [mixed as it is] of that dream in a psychedelia drug of a film by the wild, mercurial, outlandish imagination of the love-tortuous Cannes provocateur: Lèos Carax. Though its powerful iconographic fantasia of strikingly hyper-manicured avant-garde Caraxian shots galvanize the eye with a masterpiece canvas amongst the most technically-proficient/imaginative in years, Annette is a hypnagogic rock-opera of experimentalism in purgatory: ~axing a godly cast of Driver and Cotillard-led indie heavy-hitters in a dour, lava-drowned one-note minor-key sustenance of opera-melodramatic overtures, contrastively-juxtaposed characterization, masculinity/femininity darwinian exposition, bizarreness, & child-star exploitation psychoanalytical themes.

May We Start?

An Opening Scene Like An SNL Or Oscars Skit Comprehensively Deconstructing, Eulogizing, Twisting, & Having Fun Across Depts. Of Filmmaking Breaking Fourth Wall

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

Annette is an experience unlike any other I’ve had in cinema for years: one that will certainly make waves and evoke polarizing love/hate discordances in generations of audiences. The film is a VERY difficult one to review; it’s like trying to pin a number & summarize a Dalí, Beethoven, or Tim Burton x Wes Anderson x Kubrick eccentricity it normally takes cinephiles decades to fully-decipher – but here we go. The opening scene is about as domesticated as this jungle cat gets, supplying us with a scene of majestic enjoyment and comprehensive summarization of the cinematic experience that revels in self-referential artifice as it deconstructs, eulogizes, shifts, and has fun across departments in what feels like an SNL skit or Oscars introduction. The scene pure meta-gloriousness and sublime execution is like the sound-check its band performs – perfectly syncopating its visuals and score down to every note and static crackle, extrapolating lyrics to you reference/engage us in the audience as it breaks the fourth-wall to warn us of the exits and capriciousness of the odyssey ahead, humorizing dynamics between cinematic departments like the vanity of the writers’ room the cast/crew literally pray to like gods by their egos, and transcending the stage/backstage with costume changes and cues being visible on-screen and the boundaries of realism broken by musicians walking away from their equipment while still being able to play. By the time the film actually starts after its Beatles & Queen-esque opening song makes sure we’re ready, you’re already under its spell – and it only pushes us further down the rabbit-hole through ocular black magic. Annette is a visual masterpiece: one of the most avant-garde oeuvres of stylistic, cinematographical, and technical brilliance I’ve seen in the past 10+ years. The film takes us on a journey across space, time, and the realm of reality/fantasia in landscapes of black night motorcyclics, smoky backstages, dark-and-stormy sea yachts, forest bungalows, puppet stage performances, sirens’ desert islands, football stadiums, luxurious theatrehouses, exotic club locales, and the twinkling ocean of stars of Los Angeles: all executed in an overarching narrative of complexity and depth brought to life by a resurgence of technical craftsmanship.

A Visual Masterpiece

One Of The Most Avant-Garde Oeuvres Of Stylistic, Cinematographical, Iconographical, And Technical Brilliance In 10+ Years: A Hypnagogic Dreamscape Of Ocular Fantasia

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

From jump-cuts to superimposition to blurs to focus-pans to long-takes to extreme long-shots to frontal/rear projection to sumptuous cross-dissolves & fades to key/fill back-and-top lighting juxtapositions to found-footage montages to Brady-esque grid-panels and film splices, the movie is one any self-respecting cinephile or textbook-junkie needs to experience. A Caraxian & Champetierian canvas that seamlessly blends every textbook principle and technique with surgical proficiency while never sacrificing beauty in its hyper-maniculted fantasia dreamscape of pure imagination and powerful drama/composition, Annette will 100% guaranteed sweep next year’s Academy Awards in all visual categories. Quote us now. The film also manages to contrastively-juxtapose its two major characters aesthetically to synergize with their themes, characterization, and performances: another major topic of analyzability. The cast of Annette is absolutely insane: indie kings and queens so powerful, there are really only four (three for ~90% of the film) characters and performances. The two supporting actors nail their roles; Simon Helberg brings his signature charisma and nerdy underdog charm from The Big Bang Theory to a more serious drama role as The Accompanyist, and Devyn McDowell astounds with one of the most impressive child drama performances we’ve ever seen as a broken and cold finale-Annette conjured to flesh from puppeteering [will explain later] by her parents’ egoistic and parsimonious fingers. Annette is foremost a star-vehicle for its two tragically-doomed lovers characteristic of Carax’s signature filmography, and the performances to bring them to life predictively wow.. as much as they’re able to. Driver has been cherished and celebrated as a top-tier actor here at CLC from his early roles in HBO’s Girls, Paterson, & Hungry Hearts to his worldwide-debut into public consciousness as 2015’s dark knight Vader-inheritance Kylo Ren hopelessly-squandered in a Disney consortium that didn’t know what to do with his brooding indie energy.

Rare Modern Technique, Imaginé, Auterism

From Jump-Cuts To Superimposition To Focus-Pans To Long Takes/Shots To Frontal & Rear Projection To Cross-Dissolves To Key/Fill Cycles To Montages, A Guarantee To Sweep 2022’s Oscars Visual Categories

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

Here, Driver gets far more freedom and ability to shine – even entire scenes of long-take monologue on a stand-up comedy club stage without a sound or visual change to distract from spotlight as he delivers a career-performance of Oscar-caliber acting overcoming a subversive anti-typecast as a [though black/morbidly-provocative and nicely-aestheticized in grungy cigarette-smoky backrooms] comedian. The problem is… he’s shackled to a rock-opera that has him spending too much time singing instead of acting. He’s not a singer, and it shows; would you have Vader or Thanos burst out into Sound Of Music choreographical numbers for ~half the entire film? Didn’t think so. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest sin of the film [besides soundtrack, as we’ll certainly address later] is how comprehensively it wastes one of the best actresses in the world: Marion Cotillard. She brightly-luminesces alongside Driver’s McHenry in the first-act balancing the duo’s screen-time while highlighting their diametrically-opposed antimagnetic attraction, also evoking nostalgic reminisces of 1960’s Breathless and the birth of the French New Wave by Cotillard’s appearance, grace, and even the character’s française name: Ann Defrasnoux: an angelic ballerina and opera-diva from plain midwestern origins to superstardom bewitched by a bad-boy she wants to save like her theatre patrons. The fact she’s [*SPOILER*] killed off barely-halfway through the movie, before she can even make a real splash (as her character does on the stormy-seas she becomes lost in) of a performance is moronically wasteful of her talents and presence – and we’re stuck as confused as Baby Annette and as vengeful/irascible as Ann’s ghost-siren by the scripting.

A Cast Of Indie Kings And Queens

Quite Arguably The Two Greatest Indie Presences In The World; A Godly Cast So Powerful, Only 1-2 Other Characters Outside The Tragically-Doomed Caraxian Lovers

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

The contrastive juxtaposition of the characters [evil and benevolence; darkness and light; street-clubs to operatic elegance; smoke to clarity] evokes heavy topics of psychoanalytical complexity under a lens of beauty-and-the-beast, unleashed from PG-limitations and fairy-tale rules into full indie mature exploration. The crux theme of Annette is the animalistic nature, origins, and dynamic of masculinity and feminity in changing historical, evolutionary, sociopolitical, physiological, and psychological contexts. Like the toy-gorilla Anette carries throughout the film and one graphically/name-matched to McHenry’s act title: ‘The Ape Of God’, mankind came from bestial origins just like any other in the animal kingdom. Life for our ancestors was brutal: a carnage-heavy, threat-omnipotent struggle for survival amongst predatorial, physical, psychological, natural/elemental, and inter-species conflict gunning for them every hour of every day. The trajectory of our evolution has led us to a point where we have the luxury of forgetting this in our cushy penthouses and suburban realities, but we’ve only been in them for a second’s tick on the clock of planetary history. Can we turn off the psychological and physical instincts and impulses hardwired into every fiber of our DNA? How do these play into our daily lives, society, and ecosystem: is it Jekyll-And-Hyde or a mixture of the two? Evolutionary and historical darwinian contexts [I have a B.Sc in Biology from the Top 20 Nationally-Ranked Emory University (& Master’s in alternative studies from Harvard)] sculpted men into weapons both psychologically and physically: providers, protectors, and punishers wholly responsible for keeping their family unit safe and alive through changing strife and circumstances most of us can scarcely imagine today. The gatherers to hunters, women evolved divergently – beauty, child-care, and home evolutionarily-reinforced importances in opposition and codependence.

Quel Bouffon A [Litéralement] Tué Marion?

The Biggest Sin Of The Film [Besides Score] Is How Comprehensively It Wastes One Of The World’s Best Actresses – Drowned To Leave Us As Confused As Baby Annette & Vengeful/Irascible As Ann’s Ghost-Siren

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

Though society has [celebrationally] progressed to a place where we can now start to chalenge/rewrite some of these ironclad rules and role-dynamics, people naturally resist change out of psychological coping and there’s no doubt that there are still-obvious inherent differences in the sexes from millennia of history & evolution we can’t simply ignore – ones that still drive our daily lives and society. 21st Century Men no longer have to wrestle with sabre-toothed tigers, hunt packs of buffalo or gazelles to put meals on the table, or be on constant nerve-alert for every rival clan-member, venomous creature, natural disaster, etc. at any second’s notice, but still require outlets to release pent-up/repressed violence and strength-centric aggression like sports for proper developmental health and to prevent tragedies like spousal/domestic or child abuse and even homicide. Psychologically, there are still dominant societal expectations & pressures for men to be providers and protectors: the same as it was millennia ago with just a new context of more intellectualized jobs in a fiscal-over-power economy and city-infrastructure trading concrete jungles for natural ones. Women today still project the same feelings and desires they did in ancient times, only changing the surroundings and context. They, along with a society they fuel by mating-choices, genetics, and social expectations, still prefer men who provide with extensive monetary resources, exhibit hunger and ambition/work-ethic [Annette’s response of ‘good boy’ when asking if McHenry killed the audience (metaphorically) at his show and her smiles as he describes bludgeoningly savage ways of doing so], virility (the many sex scenes McHenry is shown in the power position within), and be stoic/repressed in the face of depressing life-events/outlooks: boulders women and families of mouths-to-feed can lean on. This pressure is enough to weigh down and break men in the hypercompetitive modern landscape of billions they’re expected to succeed, take charge, display no emotion, and ‘man up’/be strong even in the face of criticism and loss – driving men to 3-4x higher suicide-rates than women in a system that’s broken for both sides. The fascinating ramifications and branches of this idea are what drives the events and characters of the film.

Beauty & The Beast

The Contrastive Juxtaposition Of AF/HM Evokes Film’s Major Theme: The Animalistic Nature|Origins Of Mankind & Evolutionary, Historical, Sociopolitical, Physiological, & Psychological Differences Between M/F

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

Driver’s McHenry falls apart when he gets cancelled: another theme explored in cancel-culture and groupthink/mob-mentality, only liking art when they say it’s acceptable and palatable – even when it’s still on-brand for the dark, edgy, twisted black-comedy he became world-famous for, fulfilling his raison-d’être of not seeking ‘superfluous’ fame, ‘marriage-exclued’ women, or the ‘flame’ of money he sets on fire, but disarming the audience and subverting expectations. The inability of him to now be the breadwinner, regain the objectively-glorious benchmarks he’s lost, and be re-masculated after emasculation made 10x worse by the fame’s public humiliation and fact he has an equally-successful wife definitely fuel the progressive downwards-spiral. This is also fueled by yet another theme of the film: substance-abuse, and how drugs and alcohol remove inhibitions and reveals true-selves – pushing McHenry to act on his worst [evolutionarily-fueled, but personalized] impulses by killing anyone challenging his alpha male status or threats to his happiness/goals, whether that be his wife he’s complexly dual-characterized as loving-and-hating simultaneously (evocative of almost a Charles Foster Kane & Suzie by how layered and psychologically a maze/labyrinth their dynamic is) or The Accompanyist. There’s also exposition on another gender theme through its characterization: the nice guy personified by Helberg’s The Accompanyist, who loses the girl he loves [whom merits more of the blame society for-some-reason women from, purposely-choosing bad boys like McHenry they know have dark sides and will only hurt them in the end, perhaps out of some evolutionarily-engrained desire to be the saving-grace of the biggest-and-baddest alpha male, even at their own expense as the cycle perpetuates], plays second-fiddle without asserting himself in his job, and is killed both psychologically in cuckholdian contexts and physically by the pool-death graphically-connected to the murder of Ann by the alpha male. The Nice Guy, as the saying goes, finishes last – and the question of why that is itself is a perplexing and layered one the film hints at in exposition.

The Ape Of God

A Change Of Environment Can’t Negate Millennia Of DNA-Tuning & Evolution: A Man Weaponized By Nature->New Complex Ecosystem; Real Jungles To Concrete Ones

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

McHenry would’ve gotten away with it all too horrifyingly, if it wasn’t for the major topic of the film’s second-half: Annette. Of course, the most obvious feature and one that certainly dominates the conversaion is the fact that Ann & McHenry’s child is born a puppet – and seen as one for the entirety of the film until the final-scene. We’ll admit: we hate the puppet design, looking downright-weird and laughably-fake/creepy in every scene it appears like an Annabelle or The Boy reject. It’s also not very well-handled by how jarring it decimates any shred of realism through the film’s first half and plunges it suddenly into antithetical fantasy in a overlong, ~boring, and Cotillard-deprived. However, the payoff makes it ~tolerable – and we highly-appreciate the symbolism, intelligence, and imagination dramatically-lacking in today’s MCU-catalyzed dumbed-down blockbuster cinematic landscape. Annette isn’t really a puppet, as the finale switch symbolizes; she’s just seen as one by the film’s characters as it tackles the theme of child exploitation and uses her as a prism to mask all of their insecurities and flaws. Ann sees her as a tool to remind her that she’s still a good person after selling her soul from humble Midwest beginnings into a meaningless-though-successful career and ignoring the warning-signs and darkness of the man she married. The Accompanyist sees her as a lingering reminder and way to honor Ann’s memories he still exploits out of career-ambitions – tragicomically amplifying his beta-male characteristics while humorously reversing the dynamic ironically with the fact that his possible fatherhood of her makes the alpha-McHenry a cuckold typically-ascribed to betas.

Themes & A Very Difficult Film To Analyze

Other Themes Of Expositional Importance Tackled With Nuanced Subtlety Are Cancel-Culture, The Nice Guy Vs. Alpha Male Dynamics, #MeToo, Substance-Abuse, Etc.

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

Finally, of course, McHenry sees her as away to get [or stay] rich-and-famous – avariciously pimping out his own daughter’s gifts for profit and stardom when she’s just a child that should be playing with friends on the playground instead of being alone and scrutinized by millions of eyes. This goes back to masculinity themes and the desperation to regain alpha-status even if through his kin he makes sure to connect to him by being the presenter and agent at every show. It’s further-highlighted in complex gender themes by his many exploits in the clubs with women he doesn’t even know drawn to his resources [money & fame] just as in ancient times, but he now finds meaningless without his true love: perhaps the happiest tribute to love even in tragedy throughout Carax’s filmography. Humorously and ironically twisted back upon himself, Annette is the one to send him to prison by revealing his crimes at her final performance: one McHenry would’ve been safe from and gotten away with all of his dastardly foibles if not for the insatiable greed to do one final show on the biggest stage possible. The Annette arc is also connected to the theme of substance-abuse by how she is happy ‘daddy can’t drink or kill in prison’ like she’s saving him from himself, and the most tragic part of the film.

The Puppet & Real Annette

Though Mixedly-Executed By Bad Design & Jarring Placement, Clever Symbolism Rare In Modern Cinema; A Real Girl Seen As A Puppet Of Redemption By An, Remembrance By T.A., Riches & Fame Regain By McHenry

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

The child-exploitation nightmare Annette experiences ruins singing and the enjoyment of her god-given natural gifts forever, and makes her hate them beyond even the possibility of loving or forgiving them when she finally gets her physical appearance back once McHenry’s in jail and old enough to contextualize/ruminate on her earlier years. If that’s not a fitting Greek-tragic ending to this tale, I’m not sure what is. Beyond the mixed-handling of the puppet and deficiency of Cotillard, the film’s major flaw is one of absolutely vital importance in its chosen genre: music – a rock-opera killed by the opera. The tone is vexingly-dour and a one-note minor-key sustenance sang by a cast that sounds like they’re being drowned in hot lava (evoking remembrances of Revenge Of The Sith in conjunction with Driver’s Star Wars days, but not in a good way)… for two-and-a-half hours. There is no diversification of the monotone of its ill-fated non-singer leads that shouldn’t have even been singing this much in the first place. The technical aspects of its orchestration like crescendoes and adagios are sparingly-written, the Elton John or Queen/Beatles-esque classic rock sound of The Sparks is sequestered into one part of the film’s opening, and the songs the cast is given for the rest of the film are laughably-literal in garbage lyrical quality of clashing juxtaposition to its intricately-written script complexity.

A Tragedy Worse Than Its Events: Score

A Soundtrack So Awful, It ~Kills The Film: A Vexingly-Dour Tone, Laughably-Bad Lyrics, & One-Note Minor-Key 2.5H Sustenance By A Cast Of Non-Singers Felt Drowned In Lava

Photograph Courtesy Of: Amazon Studios

There are entire songs with choruses so laughably moronic and obvious, that a child could’ve penned them: ‘we love each-other so much’ to explain that… they love each-other so much. My goodness; that makes mumble-rappers like 6IXNI9E, Kodak Black, & Lil’ Pump feel like Henry David Thoreau, Wordsworth, and Robert Frost lyrically by comparison. The score and soundtrack of the film makes me want to go full-Van Gogh and put my sliced ears in a blender – and the prevalence of its insufferable sounds being a rock-opera having to pump it through every few minutes is enough to single-handedly fail the film and tragically-drown all of its good like McHenry does The Accompanyist. Sigh. Annette brings to mind such referenced classics as Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, and Phantom Of The Paradise, and definitely lingers on the mind long after the credits roll by its edge-of-sanity teetering, but fails to fully grasp its own potential with both hands. Though its powerful iconographic fantasia of strikingly hyper-manicured avant-garde Caraxian shots galvanize the eye with a masterpiece canvas amongst the most technically-proficient/imaginative in years, Annette is a hypnagogic rock-opera of experimentalism in purgatory: ~axing a godly cast of Driver and Cotillard-led indie heavy-hitters in a dour, lava-drowned one-note minor-key sustenance of opera-melodramatic overtures, contrastively-juxtaposed characterization, masculinity/femininity darwinian exposition, bizarreness, & child-star exploitation psychoanalytical themes.

Official CLC Score: 7.5/10