Leos Carax’s first film since 2012’s “Holy Motors,” “Annette” would’ve premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. But the French film celebration’s delay and inevitable downsizing, and whatever form it takes, mean that Carax’s rock opera starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as lovers will likely show up at the later fall film festivals. If they happen at all.
Carax’s first full-on English-language film, “Annette” is a musical set in Los Angeles that will feature original music from the ’70s rock band Sparks, and it tells a love story between a stand-up comic (Driver) and an opera star (Cotillard). In a new interview with KMUW, via The Film Stage, Sparks’ co-frontman Ron Mael said, “I think maybe the film will be shown at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals if those are still on in the fall. It’s really special. It’s different than a normal movie musical, as you might expect coming from us. It’s just such a thrill that such big names were impressed enough by it to want to become involved.”
This is Carax’s first full-on musical, but recall in “Holy Motors” a gut-wrenching number performed by Kylie Minogue, and the many epic musical moments of his classic films “Mauvais Sang” (1986) and “The Lovers on the Bridge” (1999).
Ron’s brother and Sparks partner Russell Mael, meanwhile, told Consequence of Sound recently that the film will be almost entirely told through song, in classic rock opera tradition.
“The project was shot and completed at the end of last year and there is just some small editing tweaks being done, but it’s basically finished,” said Mael. “Adam Driver is just really spectacular in the movie and it’s all singing, all of the dialogue, 95-percent of it is sung in a way, but in a way that’s stylistically true to Sparks’ sensibility, so if you can imagine that, Adam Driver doing Sparks, that’s what we have.”
The film has been officially in the works since 2017, when Amazon Studios picked up the U.S. rights. Originally, Rooney Mara and Rihanna were set to star. Cameras were to start rolling in the spring of 2017 after the Amazon pickup, but Rihanna and Mara dropped out. Michelle Williams stepped in to replace Mara, only to also drop out, later appearing in another song-and-dance story in FX’s “Fosse/Verdon.” Finally, Cotillard joined the film in May 2019.
Filming took place in Los Angeles, Germany, and Belgium, and was completed last year just before Adam Driver began his awards season rollout for “Marriage Story,” which boasted his solo singing debut with a rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive.” Both Driver and Cotillard do their own singing in “Annette.”