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Leos Carax returns to the cinema with his most ambitious project yet. Annette (2021) is a rock opera by Ron and Russell Mael (the band Sparks for those few who do not know) that plays like a Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale warning of toxic masculinity. Carax makes the most of the fantastic aspects of the narrative, conjuring career defining visuals every chance he gets. There are, of course, still the signature images of Carax’s previous films throughout.

The problem with Annette doesn’t reside with Carax, but rather the Mael brothers. The literal nature of Sparks’ songs play with a sense of irony that is wickedly funny but loses its urgency when tasked with propelling a narrative and exploring characters. Repetition in a song that should chart a character’s metamorphosis doesn’t really work as well as Ron and Russell hope. This isn’t to say that the music is bad. It’s some of their finest work. Annette simply marries two things (Sparks and the cinema) that aren’t complimentary.

Annette is a joyless spectacle that can, like Pola X (1999) be overwhelmingly dark. Critics, as well as the promotional materials for the film, downplay or even misrepresent the content of the film. This has lead to an adverse reaction from some audiences which is completely understandable.