Saturday, June 25, 2022

“Annete”—Baby Puppet Rises to Fame (Spoilers ahead)


French director Leos Carax was awarded the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for “Annette”, his first English-language debut and film since “Holy Motors” (2012). “Annette” is an ambitious, doomed-romance musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Although Hollywood may have come up with a number of musical pieces with zany whimsicalities, “Annette” is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

At least the off-screen opening voiceover (by Carax himself) gives us a hint;

“If you want to sing, laugh, clap, cry, yawn, boo or fart, please, do it in your head, only in your head. You are now kindly requested to keep silent and to hold your breath until the very end of the show. Breathing will not be tolerated during the show. So, please take a deep, last breath right now. Thank you.”

The opening indeed sets the tone for the film and boosts my anticipation. “This’d better be good”, I convinced myself.

Driver is Henry, a megalomaniac, sociopathic, provocative stand-up comedian dubbed as “The Ape of God”, a stage persona that reminds me of Tom Cruise’s Frank TJ. Mackey’s unswerving misogynistic trait in 1999’s “Magnolia”. He’s madly in love with Ann (Cotillard), a world-acclaimed, glamorous soprano opera singer. Their whirlwind romance stirs media frenzy with one tabloid headlining them “Beauty and the Bastard”. It is a quirky romance but seems organic as both sings along to the annoyingly catchy “We Love Each Other So Much” while wandering enchantingly in the woods. However, the film gives no narrative context about how they met and why they’re in love.

Career gets in the way of the romance trajectories. While Ann is at the pinnacle of her career, Henry is on the wane, giving in to self-destructive behaviors of alcoholism and outrage and naturally staking out his harmful machismo pride. Tragedy befalls them in an intense storm at sea, where they are on a private cruise with the goal of reconciliation.

That’s not all we’re getting.

Henry and Ann have a little daughter, the eponymous Annette. She is a living marionette. An actual human-like puppet wood without flesh and blood. Much like the female Pinocchio with the notable exception of the long nose. Instead, she inherits her mother’s singing voice and can sing opera while floating in midair.

Image source: Prime Video

Annette’s puppet brings up an evident exposition; having Annette is the ultimate financial perk for Henry. He continues indulging in insatiable hedonism just as his career is fading away from the spotlight. Annette becomes a metaphorical puppet with Henry overbearingly controlling and manipulating her.

Annette” approaches its climactic scene with poignant revelation. Annette unexpectedly transforms from a puppet to a real flesh-and-blood girl as she confronts Henry in prison and blames him and her mother for her exploited childhood. “You’ve changed so much, Annette”, Henry says to her, to which she replies, “Yes. I have.” This is a point at which real Annette breaks free from her manipulative parents.

Underneath Carax’s absurdly surreal narrative, “Annette” imbues us with the invigorating observation of the turbulent romance of ego and love, cultural fixation with celebrities and fame.

Annette” is also a testament to Driver’s powerhouse acting, perhaps the zenith of everything he’s ever done since Lena Dunham’s “Girls” (2012). In “Annette“, he becomes the first actor to belt out a sentimental ballad while performing (simulated) cunnilingus. It’s a small scene but lingers in our memory.

Annette” is on Prime Video.

Adrian Radjabhttps://diksi.carrd.co/
Adrian Radjab loves writing and does it the right way. When he is not writing, he teaches and translates some stuff. On his day off, he smokes and watches Golden Girls reruns.

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