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The 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival kicked off on Tuesday night — more than two years after the prior edition wrapped, thanks to the global pandemic — with the world premiere of Leos Carax‘s Annette, a wacky cinematic opera starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg. Amazon will release the film in the U.S. on August 6.
Like most Cannes opening night films, this one was better received inside the Palais (with a five-minute post-credits ovation, polite by French standards) than it was by critics, who saw it under embargo beforehand (they generally appear to be underwhelmed by Carax’s first effort since 2012’s Holy Motors — see The Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney‘s articulate review).
In terms of the big awards that get dished out back in Los Angeles, where Annette is set, my sense is that the film’s prospects will be rather limited. It is simply too long (160 minutes), meandering (with a paper-thin plot) and bizarre (one character pauses mid-cunnilingus to sing on two different occasions) — really almost contemptuous of its audience — to engage a sizable portion of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This is not to say that elements of it aren’t worthy of consideration, especially the gutsy leading performance by Driver, a daring actor who previously teased his vocal chops in Marriage Story (belting out Stephen Sondheim‘s “Being Alive”) and clearly gave his all to his portrayal of a rage-filled comedian whose relationship with his opera-singer wife (Cotillard) changes after she gives birth to their child.
Helberg, for his part, has a few nice moments in the film, but there likely isn’t enough meat on the bone for him to click any more than he did in another opera-centric film, 2016’s Florence Foster Jenkins.
Additionally, a few of the dozens of original songs in the film — which features music by Ron Mael and Russell Mael (aka the Sparks brothers) and lyrics by the Maels and Carax — are sort of catchy and could be in the conversation with the music branch, especially the Queen-like overture “So May We Start” (which you can hear here). But unfortunately, most have repetitive lyrics and not particularly catchy melodies.
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