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In this very odd rock opera, Adam Driver plays Henry, a comedian who has an unusual style that includes mocking the audiences that seem to not be able to get enough of him. Ann (Marion Cotillard), a rising opera singer, is his lover. As his career begins to decline and hers rise, they have a baby Annette; if you haven’t read much about the story, I will leave the story of Annette to your own viewing and interpretation. This film was perplexing. The opening scene was fantastic, and the music was some of the best in the film. However, I had a difficult time getting into the story; I wasn’t really interested in another story of how stars exploit and are exploited by their audiences and how they are maligned by the press. Despite the story, I found it difficult to take my eyes off the screen. Almost everything happens at night, giving it a dreamlike quality that adds to the darker aspects of the overall story. The camerawork results in a visually stunning film; the director and cameraperson optimize the artistry of almost every scene as the film switches between the reality of waking life and dream. Having watched it, I totally understand why the director won the Best Director award at Cannes; through his camera and direction, he crafted a highly visual story of the highs and lows of stardom and the psychological impact on the players in the drama. There are many superior scenes, but I remember one with Henry and Ann laying next to each other that looked like a classical painting, and another capturing the performance by Ann that is so beautiful to watch and listen to. The film is hard to describe, and it will probably be appreciated mostly by those who really enjoy art films. While I don’t think it is anywhere close to one of my favorite films that he directed, Holy Motors, it worked for me on a purely visual and abstract level. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard are both wonderful. Think a very pessimistic and dark version of A Star is Born. My rating is mostly based on the visual aspects, the acting, and the fact that the film had me thinking for several days after watching it. (2021; 4 Stars).

About Gary Burkholder

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