The musicians proposed this musical comedy project to the director, but the latter put a lot of himself into it.
Released this summer at the cinema, Annette is now available on DVD / blu-ray and VOD (for example on Première Max). In the press release accompanying the film, its director Leos Carax looks back on his creation, recalling that he was not at the origin of the project. Those are the Sparks, group founded by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, who proposed this story to him, then sent him several unpublished songs so that he could stage this musical, telling the tragic love story between two artists, played by Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, who give birth to an extraordinary child, Annette.
It is the first time that the director of Pont-Neuf lovers and of Holy Motors tackles the musical, even if he admits having wanted to shoot this type of film for a long time. He never dared to take the plunge, unable to compose music. He also explains having tried to respect the duo’s vision as much as possible, while admitting to having little by little put a lot of himself into this extraordinary work. Here are some excerpts from this interview which sheds light on some of the mysteries surrounding Annette.
Our review of Annette
The offer of the Sparks
Leos Carax knew the Sparks since he was a teenager: he discovered their music soon after that of David Bowie, to whom he paid homage in his first film, Bad blood.
“(I met the Sparks) one or two years after the release of my last film, Holy Motors (on screens in 2012, editor’s note). In one scene, Denis Lavant was listening to a song by Indiscreet (their 1975 album) In his car : How are you getting home? So they knew I liked their music. They contacted me for a musical project. A fantasy with the filmmaker Bergman who found himself trapped in Hollywood, prevented from leaving the city. But that wasn’t for me: I could never shoot something from the past, or make a movie with a character named Ingmar Bergman. A few months later, they came back with twenty song models and the idea ofAnnette.
There has always been operatic, rock but not much, and this unique Sparks mix. The universe of the Sparks is pop fantasy, with a lot of irony. But I had to take it all seriously first. “
The manufacture ofAnnette was long, especially because this project in English required a larger budget than for these previous films and was partly to be shot in the United States, but Carax worked closely with the Sparks. Becoming close to the duo, he agreed to sing on their album Hippopotamus, in 2017, for the song “When you’re a French director” :
Annette: Leos Carax details the scene written especially for Rihanna
Why Leos Carax first turned down Annette
“I immediately liked the songs. Felt very lucky, very grateful. But I got them
first said no, I couldn’t make the movie. I had personal concerns. My daughter was 9 at the time. And even if the Mael brothers knew nothing about my life – I believe – things in that story could have troubled her. And then did I really, really want to make a movie about a if ‘bad father’, at that time in my life? But as I was listening to the songs on repeat, my daughter ended up liking them as much as I did and asking me questions. When I answered her, I realized that she already understood a lot. And that by the time the film was shot – if it ever was – she would understand even better how a film project comes into being. So I said yes. “
Leos Carax lost his partner Katerina Gobuleva, the mother of his daughter Nastya, in 2011. Nastya appears alongside the filmmaker in the introductory scene and the film is dedicated to him. Carax also explains that it was very important for him to open the film with his child, as on Holy Motors.
“I had imagined it for her, me and our dogs – but we couldn’t take the dogs to Los Angeles. Holy Motors, it was important to be there with her at the very beginning. No doubt to reassure me, after all these years without having made films. As if we were embarking on a little experimental home movie. I see these last two films as experimental films. Annette is a big one, Holy Motors a small one. I consider them as ‘the films I have made since I was a father’. “
Marion Cotillard – Annette: “Leos lives his cinema intensely”
Respect the vision of the Sparks
“As it was not originally my project but that of Sparks, Annette really started with the music, their music. And although of course I didn’t compose anything, I often felt more of a composer than a director – which in fact had often been the case in my previous films. I had no actor in mind and, most importantly, no idea how to film a baby, from birth to six years old … a singing baby … The film seemed impossible to make.
Another worry was: how to create Henry (the character played by Adam Driver) ? A Henry who, despite everything, would be close to me. And what real father-daughter relationship could I imagine, in this context of “exploitation”?
Music is such an intimate thing. I couldn’t see myself making a musical movie if I didn’t like every note in every song. That worried me a lot, especially since we wanted the film entirely in songs. Musicals usually have 10 or 20 songs — often some of them boring. But we had to create for Annette 40 songs that I can see and then film. And how do you work with music when you’re not a musician yourself? But working with Ron and Russell was miraculously straightforward. They are very inventive, humble, quick. And I’ve known their music for so long … it was like going back to your childhood home years later – but a house without ghosts.
The line of the narrative is much more traditional than that of all of my other films, I would say. It comes from the brethren. They brought me this dark tale, which I have respected, I believe.
The film was designed for Los Angeles. The brothers live there, were born there. During all these years of preparation, I have been offered twenty times to choose another city, because filming there is very expensive. I tried to imagine other cities, but it didn’t work so well. I wanted Henry to ride his motorcycle like a cowboy between two worlds – his, Ann’s – and it wouldn’t have worked at all in New York, Paris, or Toronto. “
Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers Trailer: “Your Favorite Band’s Favorite Band”
Leos Carax additions
Please note that the following quotes contain spoilers on Annette.
The filmmaker admits having finally appropriated the story ofAnnette. He explains for example having chosen Adam Driver to play the main role because he found him similarities with his main actors of Bad blood and Pola X, Denis Lavant and Guillaume Depardieu:
“I see a link between their interpreters: Denis, Guillaume, Adam. Above all, they are interesting boys, and all the actors are not. I had only seen Adam in the series Girls and I said to myself, like Prince Myshkin when he sees Nastassia Filippovna for the first time: ‘What an extraordinary face!’ And also: an extraordinary body. He reminded me a little of Denis, although they are not alike at all. (…) As for their characters, I imagine that yes, they share certain traits. They seek their salvation, but they destroy.
The Sparks wrote this song, Ok, Ready? Laugh !, in which the audience sings their laughs. The only words are ‘Ha ha ha ha!’. I liked it a lot, so I gave the audience even more voice, so that the shows sometimes became like duets between him and Henry. I found it hard to imagine Henry’s fall from grace. In the Sparks libretto, he was just getting less and less successful over time. But I wanted his fall to be brutal. I looked for what could really go wrong in one of his shows. (…) I thought: first, he’s not going to do something terrible, he’s only going to fantasize about a terrible thing, and the audience won’t forgive him – because the truth, even for a comic , apparently has its limits. And then Ann, too, has to fantasize about something terrible about Henry. He sees visions of her dying over and over on stage, and he’s playing with the idea of killing her. And she dreams that he is accused by six women of having abused them. “
The very end of the film was imagined by Leos Carax. A sequence in prison where Annette is no longer a puppet: she comes to life and settles accounts with her father, whose physical appearance evokes that of the filmmaker.
“This is the Pinocchio side of the film – and the reason I added the last scene, in jail. And the reality is often this: it is from the moment the child starts to let go. adults that the truth of the child begins. This is what I went through. And that’s why I changed my name when I was 13. I don’t want my daughter to reject me. day, but that’s how things are. Let the childhood pass. Annette appears and she says: ‘Yes, I have changed, and it’s over. Now you have no one to love. ‘
Films for sure are not interesting. A film only comes to life when you put your doubts and fears into it. Let us confront what seems impossible, unimaginable to us. Like the fact that our own daughter could turn against us forever.
I feel very close to Annette. It’s like in The hunter’s night, but she has no older brother or Lilian Gish to protect her. She finds herself really alone in front of this man-father. Cinema is made for the orphan in us. I remember the experience, when I arrived in Paris, of discovering films, alone in the dark – especially silent films. There were those same things you talk about: liberation and dread. To be sitting in the dark, surrounded by a lot of foreign bodies, facing something much bigger than yourself, something that is not your family … it’s very powerful. “
The blu-ray edition ofAnnette includes as a bonus: a making-of on the making of the puppet, an interview with Marion Cotillard and a CD of the film’s key songs. Here is his trailer: