“I didn’t feel the need to imagine what it was going to be, but I have to say that I was blown away when everything came together,” explained Marion Cotillard as we discussed Annette. This romantic musical drama got a standing ovation when it opened the 74th Cannes Film Festival. “I tried to live in the moment.”
The movie, the brainchild of Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks, marks director Leos Carax’s English-language feature debut.
“I know that Leos has this visual universe that is very intimate, and at the same time, the cinematography is huge. You see that in a lot of his films but especially in Annette. For me, Annette is more than a movie, more than a musical, and more than an opera. He delivered a movie that is so artistic and has this poetic flavor to it.”
Cotillard is not wrong. Annette is one of the year’s weirdest films as well as one of the most beautiful, challenging, and engaging.
“Everybody’s different, and everybody is going to take something out of the movie that reflects something personal and what resonates with them,” she mused. “It’s like a journey and an experience like Inception. It’s a real cinematographic and intellectual experience.”
Cotillard takes on the role of a famous soprano, Ann Desfranoux, who marries controversial stand-up comedian, Henry McHenry, played by Adam Driver. They have a daughter, Annette, but jealousy and other factors cause their relationship to nosedive into darkness and tragedy. Striking a balance between chemistry and distance was key to making it work.
“For these two people, their love story unfolds with the audience. The fact that we didn’t really know each other added something,” the actress explained. “I think it would be different on a movie where it’s the story about people who’ve been married for ten years. We used the idea that you meet someone on the first day on set, and you’re looking into their eyes, playing the part that you’re in love. We played with that. Of course, you start working, and you get to know each other, but you try to keep that.”
With Annette being a musical, the cast was required to sing. It also needed to be done on set as they filmed, not afterward, adding an extra challenge. Cotillard and Driver turned that to their advantage.
“Adam’s not a singer, and I’m not a singer, so we came on set with the same anxiety about that, especially as all the singing was live. We were in the same boat, looking at each other, being like, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this.’ We were anxious, but we supported each other. Adam is such a deep and amazing human being, so it was really easy to make this connection.”
One element of Annette that Cotillard wanted to have audiences explore on their own terms, and without her influence, was her titular co-star.
“I don’t want to say much about her,” she said. “I thought it was an amazing idea to have this kid and what it tells about how adults can manipulate kids. It was powerful to explore what they project on their kids when they’re not in a good place which sometimes can be very far from who they are. It’s the inner self of a person.”
“I don’t want to talk too much about her, I want people to explore that part, but I thought the way this was done was brilliant. When I finish a movie, I often forget everything about it, but this one is different.”
Annette is in select theaters and streaming on Amazon’s