Categories Annette Articles

‘Annette’ Is The Culmination of Everything Adam Driver’s Done Yet

In a recent Q&A at the Lincoln Center about his eccentric new rock musical Annette—in which a celebrity couple played by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard become parents to a big-eared female marionette with an angelic singing voice—French director Leos Carax was asked about the unique malleability of his male lead. For the past four decades, Carax has been collaborating with his chameleonic countryman Denis Lavant, a spectacular shapeshifter who played nearly a dozen roles in 2012’s exuberant Holy Motors (including a sewer-dwelling mutant). Speaking with moderator Devika Girish of Film Comment, Carax perceived something kindred to Lavant in Driver’s highly physical acting style. “[They’re both] like monkeys,” the director said. “But I like monkeys. … When they don’t move, they look like statues; when they move, they look like dancers.”

The simian thing is key to Driver’s affect in Annette. His character, one Henry McHenry, is a kamikaze stand-up comedian whose controversial stage persona is the “Ape of God” (he even splatters a banana before going onstage). The question of how a misanthropic performance artist would sell out theaters across L.A. and dominate TMZ-style gossip shows while joking about blow jobs and gas chambers is one of several dozen mysteries that Carax’s wildly stylized film bulldozes over through sheer, delirious commitment to the bit. Working closely with the pop duo Sparks (who conceived the story and wrote the score), Carax piles on absurdist touches—secret trysts, supernatural curses, vengeful mermaids, a distinctly European version of a Super Bowl halftime show—until the whole enterprise threatens to buckle under its weight. Annette runs almost two and a half hours and feels longer; it doesn’t have Holy Motors’ fast-twitch momentum. But Driver carries this strange, ungainly allegory about art, fame, and love on his back and straight upward like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. King Kong ain’t got shit on him.

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‘Very Singular’: Adam Driver Sings Surreal Tune In ‘Annette’

Adam Driver has gone from “Star Wars” poster star to carving out a name for himself in magnificent roles where he can let his range as an actor speak for itself – and he’s taken on some stranger roles as well.

In Leos Carax’s “Annette,” an enchantingly demented rock opera, Driver sings in some very strange places. On a motorcycle. At sea. In the middle of lovemaking.

Since its premiere last month at the Cannes Film Festival, “Annette” has predictably caused a stir. As you might suspect, opinions tend to differ on absurdist-yet-sincere 140-minute musicals of elaborate melodrama scored by Sparks (the pop duo Ron and Russell Mael) and co-starring a glowing baby (the titular Annette) rendered in the form of a puppet.

And yet, if anyone can agree on anything in “Annette,” it’s that Driver is really good in it. Extraordinary, even. For an actor prone to launching himself fully into the visions of filmmakers, it’s maybe a new pinnacle of rigorous commitment.

In even the most out-there parts of “Annette,” Driver is ferociously dedicated and intensely physical. He goes all in. And those more unusual places for song, like in the middle of oral sex?

Another new experience.

“It feels very singular,” says Driver. “Like: I won’t be doing this again” – and then he chuckles – “most likely.”

Driver spoke in an interview on a hotel balcony overlooking the Mediterranean during his brief stay in Cannes. Immediately after sharing a cigarette with Carax during the standing ovation for “Annette” at its premiere, he flew out to return to shooting “White Noise” in Ohio with Noah Baumbach. His head, Driver said, was fully immersed in “White Noise.”

But “Annette” is something different for even the eclectic Driver. He signed on to it seven years ago after Carax, the French filmmaker of the blissfully bonkers “Holy Motors,” contacted him having only seen him in “Girls.”

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Categories Annette Articles

Adam Driver On Singing, Surrealism And ‘Annette’

CANNES, France — In Leos Carax’s “Annette,” an enchantingly demented rock opera, Adam Driver sings in some very strange places. On a motorcycle. At sea. In the middle of lovemaking.

Since its premiere last month at the Cannes Film Festival, “Annette” has predictably caused a stir. As you might suspect, opinions tend to differ on absurdist-yet-sincere 140-minute musicals of elaborate melodrama scored by Sparks (the pop duo Ron and Russell Mael) and co-starring a glowing baby (the titular Annette) rendered in the form of a puppet.

And yet, if anyone can agree on anything in “Annette,” it’s that Driver is really good in it. Extraordinary, even. For an actor prone to launching himself fully into the visions of filmmakers, it’s maybe a new pinnacle of rigorous commitment. In even the most out-there parts of “Annette,” Driver is ferociously dedicated and intensely physical. He goes all in. And those more unusual places for song, like in the middle of oral sex? Another new experience.

“It feels very singular,” says Driver. “Like: I won’t be doing this again” — and then he chuckles — “most likely.”

Driver spoke in an interview on a hotel balcony overlooking the Mediterranean during his brief stay in Cannes. Immediately after sharing a cigarette with Carax during the standing ovation for “Annette” at its premiere, he flew out to return to shooting “White Noise” in Ohio with Noah Baumbach. His head, Driver said, was fully immersed in “White Noise.”

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Categories Annette Articles

Annette Stars A Shirtless, Singing Adam Driver, But What Does It Mean?

The French filmmaker Leos Carax is the definition of all-in. His movies, which he’s been making since the 1980s, are careening vehicles for big, audacious performances, surreal visual spectacle, and sometimes jarring leaps of imagination. They’re also, almost always, engaged with the social issues of their time. In 1986, Mauvais Sang, a sci-fi parable starring Juliette Binoche, overtly referenced the AIDS crisis. 1991’s Les Amants du Pont Neuf paired Binoche with the one-of-a-kind French actor, mime, and acrobat Denis Lavant in an over-the-top melodrama about addiction, homelessness, and mutually destructive amour fou. And 2012’s Holy Motors—well, I’m not exactly sure what that one was about, but it followed Lavant’s enigmatic character through a single day of dizzying transformations, from hit man to motion-capture stunt performer to the father of a family of chimpanzees, and it was one of the best films of that year, a perceptual roller coaster that left the viewer’s brain abuzz with thrilling if hard-to-sort-out ideas about the ravages of capitalism and the instability of personal identity.

Nine years later we have Annette, a thoroughly banana cakes musical romance with story and songs by Ron and Russell Mael, the brothers who make up the veteran music duo Sparks (recently and delightfully showcased in a documentary by Edgar Wright). In the place of his longtime muse Lavant, Carax has cast an equally if very differently charismatic actor, this time a global movie star: Adam Driver, the hunky cad of Girls, the glowering space brat of the latest Star Wars trilogy, the volatile wall-punching ex-husband of Marriage Story. And in the place of the serenely luminous Binoche is the serenely luminous Marion Cotillard as Ann Desfranoux, a world-famous opera singer who holds audiences in thrall with ethereal vocal performances that inevitably end in her character’s onstage death.

Ann’s lover and eventually husband, played by Driver, is a superstar standup comedian named Henry McHenry, a shock-jock type who comes onstage in a ratty bathrobe and aggressively mocks his audience’s expectation that he make them laugh. In a none-too-subtle commentary on celebrity culture and the abjection of fandom, this approach makes them laugh uproariously. And in a variation I’ve never seen on the often-revisited genre of the fourth-wall-breaking musical, Henry’s audience occasionally bursts into song themselves, chiding the bad-boy comic for his unorthodox antics on and off the stage. When they’re performing, Henry kills and Ann dies, a metaphor that is again hammered home with a little too much force.

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Categories Annette Articles

Annette: Adam Driver Singing In Sparks Musical Is Even Weirder Than It Sounds

Annette is a love story between comedy and tragedy. Which is not to say there is a partnership between these two creative impulses. How could there be when the outlook of director Leos Carax and rock band Sparks’ vision is so overwhelmingly tragic that it becomes their musical’s lone guiding star? And yet, seeing how one of those central tenets of performing art subsumes the other, and how Adam Driver’s evermore brooding presence can engulf even Marion Cotillard’s bubbliness, is hypnotic in its way.

As one of the buzziest films to come out of Cannes this year, Annette lives up to its singular hype: Yes, this is an honest to Sparks musical written by mercurial rock stars Ron and Russell Mael, and which features Driver and Cotillard singing during sex. But it’s the way the movie is aware of its inherent strangeness, particularly in moments like the sight of Kylo Ren and Talia al Ghul duetting mid-cunnilingus, that most clearly reveals its fixation with artifice. Indeed, Annette is a movie obsessed with the deceptions we accept, be it as an audience watching characters burst into song, or as lovers who ignore the flaws of our partners to our own peril.

Such is the tale of Henry McHenry (Driver) and Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard). Henry’s a stand-up comic who tells funny lies to make his audiences feel better. Ann is an opera star who performs hard truths about life and death to make her audiences cry. They’re both after the same thing: honesty, yet Henry goes about it through deception, and as a way to hide from the darkness within himself. Ann confronts it every night with comforting beauty, hence why when they meet up afterward, Henry says he “killed” his fans while Ann insists she “saved” hers.

Both lovers are weavers of illusions, so perhaps that’s why when they have a child, newborn daughter Annette literally appears to be a puppet made of cloth. No, really, in Henry and our eyes, she is a puppet, and one with a unique gift that walks the line between Henry and Ann’s talents.

It’s serendipitous that Annette is making its premiere on Amazon now, only a matter of weeks after Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers documentary introduced the titular creative musical talent behind both films to a wider audience. As one of the most peculiar and beloved almost-famous bands of the last 50 years, Sparks are a tremendous musical force that were part of the British Invasion era of rock in the ‘60s and ‘70s (despite being from California) and who endured on to reimagine themselves as pioneers of ‘70s and ‘80s synth music, and then as composers in the ‘90s. With Annette, they try a new hat on as both the writers of the film’s story, as well as the songs which dominate most of the movie’s running time.

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Categories Annette Articles

Adam Driver’s ‘Annette’ Makes Waves At Cannes As ‘Acid Trip’ And ‘True Sh–post Of A Movie’

Well that’s one way to kick off Cannes.

“Annette,” the opening-night film of the festival that stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, turned some heads Tuesday with some surreal, head-scratching moments and a few divisive reactions from critics, even as it earned a five-minute standing ovation from the crowd.

“Holy Motors” director Leos Carax’s latest film is a pop opera with a story and original songs by the duo Sparks, and the movie features everything from a marionette baby, musical head trips and, as at least one critic pointed out, two shots of Driver even briefly singing into Cotillard’s vagina.

“I thought Adam Driver doing Bo Burnham-style stand-up and having a horrifying robot baby with Marion Cotillard was weird but ‘Annette’ just kept outdoing itself,” critic Iana Murray wrote of the film. “A true s—post of a movie. Don’t know if i like it yet but i respect the audacity.”

TheWrap’s Steve Pond wrote in his review of the film out of Cannes that when “Holy Motors” premiered at the festival nine years ago, it was such a radical shock placed in the dead center of so many other films. That film, despite being a critical darling, had its fair share of polarized reactions and boos at Cannes. But “Annette” is the opening night film and is setting the tone this year, and it doesn’t quite reach the level of crazy of its predecessor.

But when Carax’s new film, “Annette,” premiered at Cannes on Tuesday, it faced a tougher road. The French filmmaker, after all, has the opening-night competition slot this year, which means his new film can’t come as a breath of fresh, weird air the way his last film did. This year, he’s setting the tone, not providing the contrast.

“Besides, ‘Annette’ (an Amazon Studios release) may be bonkers in its own way, but it’s less bonkers than “’Holy Motors’ was,” Pond wrote. “Carax set the bizarro bar very high nine years ago, and his first movie since then proves that he’s still a nutty filmmaker by turning his nuttiness into a full-fledged musical. That’s fun, for a while, and then it’s kind of exhausting, something that ‘Holy Motors,’ with a similar two-hour-and-20-minute running time, never was.”

“Annette” is set in present-day Los Angeles and stars Driver as a stand-up comic and Cotillard as a world-renowned opera singer who together fall in love and make a passionate, glamorous couple, but find their lives turned upside down when their first child, Annette, turns out to be a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny.

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Annette Review: Adam Driver Shines In A Bizarre Rock Opera

This year’s Cannes Film Festival opener stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in a musical cum celebrity satire. It’s variously embarrassing and delightful, writes Nicholas Barber.

The opening-night film at this year’s Cannes Festival is an embarrassing folly that is almost impossible to sit through. It’s also a daring, unique passion project that has you gasping with delight. I tipped back and forth between these two assessments so often during the 140 minutes of Annette that I gave myself a dose of seasickness.

The film is a surreal, avant-garde rock opera directed by Leos Carax, maker of The Lovers on The Bridge and the fabulously bonkers Holy Motors. It’s written, with some help from Carax, by Ron and Russell Mael, aka veteran pop duo Sparks (the subject of Edgar Wright’s new documentary, The Sparks Brothers). The Maels can be spotted here and there in Annette, but their main onscreen appearance is in the uplifting opening scene, which has the band rattling through a song, So May We Begin, in a recording studio. After the first verse, the Maels stride out into the street, still singing, pursued by their quartet of backing vocalists. As they process around Los Angeles they are joined by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, among others, and the camera stays just ahead of them (a bit like in The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony video) in one unbroken shot. It’s a joyous sequence – the most joyous part of the film, in fact – and it promises that we’re in for a rousing, arthouse version of La La Land. As it turns out, Annette is closer to an arthouse version of A Star Is Born. The first hour of the film, at any rate, is about the fraying relationship between two performers, as a woman’s career rises and a man’s falls. After that it gets much weirder.

Driver plays Henry McHenry, a bilious comedian who likes to wear a dressing gown and slippers for his misanthropic (and dreadful) stand-up show, The Ape of God. Cotillard plays his girlfriend, Ann, an opera diva who is considered by the world to be far too good for him: a report on “Showbizz News” is captioned “Beauty and The Bastard”. Nonetheless, Henry and Ann marry and have a baby, Annette, who happens to be a creepy, Chucky-like wooden puppet with the glowing heart of ET The Extra Terrestrial.

There were times when the film was so crass yet so outlandish that I wondered how it ever got made – and I suspect that the two-word answer is ‘Adam Driver’

The most captivating thing about all this is that the film is sung-through – that is, there is hardly any dialogue that hasn’t been set to the Maels’ pounding score. Henry and Ann are always singing, whether they’re fending off the paparazzi, hurtling through California on Henry’s motorbike, having sex, or, in Cotillard’s best moment, backstroking across the swimming pool outside their secluded house. It’s a wonderfully strange conceit, although anyone hoping for a toe-tapping musical might be disappointed that the Maels favour repeated chants over witty rhymes and complete songs. It gets tiresome to hear people intoning “Why did you become a comedian” and “We love each other so much” over and over again. Another sticking point is that, to begin with, the film’s formal radicalism isn’t matched by its conventional visuals or its banal story. Once the novelty of the relentless music wears off, you realise that Annette is a humourless, superficial celebrity satire that feels a decade or three out of date.

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