The much-lauded opening film at the 2021 Festival de Cannes, Leos Carax’s wild and spectacular Annette is a fever-dream musical conceived by the wonderfully weird art-pop duo Sparks. A musical fable of operatic proportions, the film is currently available on Amazon Prime.
“An original musical in every sense,” writes NPR‘s Justin Chang, Annette is “an extravagantly emotional rock opera that mixes comedy and tragedy, showbiz satire and doomed romance. It doesn’t all work; if you’re not on its bizarre wavelength, it may not work for you at all. But moment by moment, its go-for-broke audacity left me feeling grateful that it exists.”
Annette stars Adam Driver as Henry McHenry, a fiercely charismatic stand-up comedian, and Marion Cotillard as Ann Defrasnoux, a world-renowned opera singer. In an arthouse take on A Star is Born, the glamorous celebrity couple falls passionately in love, but as Henry’s career begins to falter and Ann’s continues to soar, their privileged life breaks down into a cycle of rage, madness and abuse. The birth of their first child, Annette, a “mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny,” turns the couple’s lives upside down, and as they struggle to right their marriage, an unthinkable accident proves that their love is eternal.
While Annette received a lengthy standing ovation at Cannes — the tribute continued for so long that Driver was spotted lighting a cigarette at the five-minute mark — critics have thus far been divided. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson declared that the film lacked substance, while The New York Times’ A.O. Scott and The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw were both dazzled by its ambitious construction.
“With Carax, first impressions can easily and unintentionally bely decades of craft,” Cassie da Costa cautions in Vanity Fair. “Unsurprisingly, the filmmaker — who, like Fellini before him, has drawn inspiration from the meta-verse of moviemaking and celebrity — started out as a critic. Paying closer attention to his latest hulking, brooding, laughing film might compel you to watch it not just once, but again and again.”
READ MORE: Annette Is a Wild, Exhilarating Ride Through Male Self-Destruction (Vanity Fair)
“Carax and his collaborators clearly delight in taking the conventions of the form and pushing them to weird, hilarious extremes,” film critic Justin Chang noted in his review for NPR. “Most of the dialogue is sung, rather than spoken, and the actors are up to the challenge. Cotillard has long been a singer as well as an actor, and Driver tosses off some of his lyrics with a Sondheim-esque virtuosity that might remind you of his heartfelt rendition of ‘Being Alive’ from Marriage Story.”
READ MORE: Strange, Singular, Audacious ‘Annette’ Works As An Odd, Original Rock Opera (NPR)
Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper writes that “Adam Driver is in full leave-it-all-on-the-field mode, diving headfirst into the role of one Henry McHenry, an aggressive and macho stand-up comedian known as ‘The Ape of God,’ who prowls the stage in a robe like a boxer stepping into the ring, working the crowd like an unsettling mix of Lenny Bruce, Andy Kaufman and Andrew Dice Clay.”
While Henry is killing it, Roeper comments, Cotillard’s Ann is onstage “dying every night” as a beloved opera soprano. “Whereas Henry’s crude and rude and lewd act centers on slaying the audience and pouring out his aggression and anger, Ann is all about delivering infinitely more lovely and sophisticated tones of love and heartbreak. And yet they’re crazy about each other, because the movie tells us they’re crazy about each other.”
READ MORE: ‘Annette’: Most of the weirdness works in bold, fever-dream musical (Chicago Sun-Times)
Anthony Lane, film critic for The New Yorker, notes that the storyline for Annette follows the same arc as many of Carax’s previous films. “Wind back to the opening of Leos Carax’s first feature, Boy Meets Girl (1984), and you find a woman who has just split from her lover, Henri, and taken their young daughter with her,” Lane writes. “Fast-forward to Carax’s new movie, Annette, and you find Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), who at one point, sundered from his lover, Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard), is left with their young daughter. From The Night Is Young (1986), The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), and Pola X (1999) to Annette, Carax has stuck to his story: boy meets girl, and the meeting sends them down into the depths. Plus ça change.”
READ MORE: “Annette” and the Drama of the Gifted Child (The New Yorker)
CAMERAS & LENSES
Annette was shot by Carax’s long-time collaborator, the César Award-winning cinematographer Caroline Champetier, AFC (Holy Motors, Of Gods and Men). Her career spans four decades of French cinema, collaborating with directors including Chantal Akerman, Arnaud Desplechin, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Lanzmann and Jacques Rivette.
“Holy Motors and Annette are both films that we conceived in units, one sequence at a time,” Champetier said of her collaboration with Carax in an interview with Yonca Talu for Film Comment. “Having worked with Godard, I come from such a school. It’s a method that has helped me tremendously to envision a film ever since Arnaud Desplechin’s The Sentinel, which was a difficult movie to make with its 75 sets.”
READ MORE: Cannes Interview: Caroline Champetier (Film Comment)
The filmmakers opted to employ a combination of Sony VENICE and α7 III cameras outfitted with Zeiss Supreme Prime lenses for Annette. Champetier and 1st AC Inès Tabarin detailed the setups in an interview for the Zeiss Lenspire Cinematography blog. “We had four cameras: two Venices and two α7 IIIs, which we used with the same lenses as the Venice cameras but in X-AVC codec,” Tabarin said. “The α7 IIIs were necessary, and as ‘noble’ as the other two (Leos always had monitoring for the four cameras), and they were very helpful to multiply angles on Henry’s shows.”
Champetier said she selected the Sony VENICE because she is “totally convinced that the color sampling of Sony is outstanding. There was also the fact that we needed lighter cameras: we might as well remain with Sony and their α7 IIIs. I think it benefited the grading.”
Choosing equipment, Champetier said, is an equation between a look, ergonomics, and budget. The Zeiss Supreme Prime lenses “are very well balanced on faces,” she explained, mostly due to their optical design. “They are beautiful lenses for the faces!” she enthuses, adding, “We toyed with the idea of anamorphic but I think it would have been too much.”
Two years earlier, Champetier had performed a series of blind tests on lenses that helped her rediscover the Zeiss Super Speed and the Zeiss Standards T2.1. “I had not utilized them for years, after having entered the profession with these lenses and used them a lot with Jean-Luc Godard,” she recalled. “When I was able to depart from them, I was quite glad at the time… But during this test, I thought, ‘They are so beautiful on the faces!’ Why not take Zeiss lenses? We weighed the Supremes and we took them.”
READ MORE: Zeiss Supreme Primes on “Annette” (Lenspire Cinematography)
In a separate interview for AF Cinema, Talu asked Champetier about the advantages of the Sony VENICE compared to the Sony F65, which she had used to shoot Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents (2016) and Xavier Beauvois’s The Guardians (2017).
“The VENICE is a more recent camera, whose biggest difference with the F65 is that it has a 24×36 sensor,” Champetier explained:
“Its ergonomics are also much more compact, with a lens/viewfinder unit — the Rialto — that can be separated from the recording unit. It’s a setup that allowed us to have the camera on the shoulder and that we used in Annette’s bedroom or when Ann looks for Henry inside the boat in the storm sequence. Steadicam cameraman Jo Vermaercke also used the Rialto in scenes that required multiple cameras, such as Henry’s first performance. But the main reason I chose the VENICE is because it seems to me to be the most precise camera in terms of color sampling. We wanted a film where colors — which needed to stand up to blacks — would be magnified, and where skins would be captured in all their variations.”
READ MORE: Caroline Champetier, AFC, talks about her work on Leos Carax’s “Annette” (AF Cinema)
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! SPOTLIGHT ON FILM PRODUCTION:
From the latest advances in virtual production to shooting the perfect oner, filmmakers are continuing to push creative boundaries. Packed with insights from top talents, go behind the scenes of feature film production with these hand-curated articles from the NAB Amplify archives:
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Champetier’s expertise using classic camera moves proved to be invaluable while filming Annette, the DP told Talu. For example, “one might think it would have been easier to circle the actor, Simon Helberg, with a Steadicam, but there had to be big rhythmic breaks in this shot,” she detailed:
“So we set up rails and turned around him at different speeds with a zoom. That allowed me to move closer or farther away depending on the music, since the framing absolutely follows the music in this sequence. The Steadicam could have been a way of doing it, but the dolly yields something more stable that can be settled. A Steadicam movement cannot be interrupted — you have to follow it through, because it continues to float if you stop it. On the dolly, you can interrupt a shot and then start over. That’s the reason why we also used a dolly in the sequence shot in which Ann sings alone in her room and understands that Henry might not be the man she thought he was. That being said, the speed and violence of Henry’s movements on stage often required a Steadicam.”
There was no systematic use of framing tools for Annette, as Champetier explained to Lenspire. Rather, camera movement such as Steadicam, dolly, crane shots and handheld cameras were defined by the blocking of each sequence. “The motions follow the blocking,” she emphasized:
“Carax… talked about using a Steadicam, but we knew that we would not be able to afford a Steadicamer every day, we had to adapt. I really enjoy the dolly. There is a sophisticated dolly move in a scene were Marion Cotillard sings about her worries: it is designed, rehearsed with the actress. Many directors can be reassured by a kind of versatility of the Steadicam, but we would not have been able to achieve the firmness of the shot and the way it sometimes freezes with a Steadicam. I find it difficult to block, because it is all about rhythm, how it starts and how it ends… Which is not the case with the dolly.”
Champetier credits Steadicam operator Jo Vermaerckefor for his thoughtful contributions throughout production. “He was respectful of the fact that the shot is built by several people,” she said. “We made a film which looks like it has cost five million euros more than the actual budget, so we had to work as a flexible, hybrid team. Jo also operated a second camera, Inès was focus puller and camera operator, our trainees were also able to operate and to assist.”
SO MAY WE START?
In a paean to cinema itself, Annette opens with an infectious introductory musical number featuring the Sparks brothers along with the film’s cast and director.
“The number ‘So May We Start’ serves as a preface to the movie,” Jazz Tangcay writes in Variety. “A close-up of drums cuts to a guitar before settling in on a tight shot of Russell Mael. As the camera zooms out to include a recording studio, we see singers moving down the connecting hallway, where they are joined by Driver and Cotillard — outside their roles in the film.”
The sequence was partially inspired by a video from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2010 wedding to Vanessa Nadal, Champetier told Tangcay. As a surprise for the bride during the reception, Miranda used members of the wedding party to recreate “To Life“ from Fiddler on the Roof. “Leos wanted the scene have the same energy as that, and be a preamble to everything,” Champetier said.
READ MORE: How Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Wedding Video Informed the Opening to Leos Carax’s Musical ‘Annette’ (Variety)
Champetier described the opening sequence in her interview with Film Comment: “Annette’s prologue is an expansive act of mise en scène on LC’s part,” she said:
“It’s a sequence shot that begins inside a recording studio — the legendary The Village Studios in Los Angeles—and steps out onto Santa Monica Boulevard, until the actors — Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg — put on their characters’ costumes and take off into the L.A. night. As the crew — the sound mixer, Erwan Kerzanet; the first assistant camera, Inès Tabarin; our terrific American steadicam operators; and me — we had to make the shot possible.”
Carax “doesn’t always talk about his motivations, Champetier told Film Comment, but he regularly provided what she calls “powerful” references, usually delivered without comment. “It’s our job to follow up with other references, then initiate the creative gesture,” she said.
“For Annette’s opening sequence, LC showed us Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wedding video, in which he grabs the mike, starts singing, and calls all the wedding participants to his side. It’s a real show — a gift for the bride, who stands there laughing and applauding. This wedding video made us understand the momentum that LC wanted the film to have, both for the audience and for us, the crew. We were also a gang and had to remain one until the end.”
ANNETTE THE PUPPET
Among a continually unwrapping host of surprises, perhaps one of the most unexpected things about Annette is that the titular character is played almost entirely by puppets.
“LC came up with the idea of the puppet because it was impossible to meet the constraint of depicting a child from birth to age six,” Champetier explained to Film Comment, recounting how Carax, assistant director Julie Gouet, and the DP attended the shows of choreographer Gisèle Vienne, whose work draws on the art of puppetry, before meeting Annette’s puppeteers, Estelle Charlier and Romuald Collinet.
Beginning in May 2018, creating the puppets for Annette was “a long work in progress,” Champetier said:
“Annette had five bodies — from her birth until she was six years old — each of which had several different masks, such as the laughing mask of the moment when she dances with her mother on the patio of their house or the worried mask during the storm. For my part, I focused on the puppet’s textures so that it would have a luminosity that could be that of a child. I also filmed pretty early on my daughter Jeanne with one of Annette’s first masks. We realized that a young woman and a puppet worked together. That is to say that the feeling of humanity was there. Same thing when Marion Cotillard rehearsed the dance scene with the unfinished puppet: we were all moved.”
A year later, the production set up a factory in Brussels, which included workshops for each department, from costumes to sets. “I wanted there to be a Black Maria — the name of Edison’s studio, the first in film history — where we could train, like in the small Panavision studio in which we shot a lot of things,” Champetier said. “So we built a black box where we did all our tests, from Adam Driver’s costumes to the puppet’s last tests. We saw how it unfurled, walked, closed its eyes, but also how to dress it and make it fly. It was really a work of taming the puppet through the camera.”
Champetier and her team conducted extensive tests with the puppets to determine if the conceit could work, the DP said in her interview with Lenspire. “During these first tests, the question was if we believed in it, and finding a way to make her sing and move,” she recounts:
“One of the first things we filmed was her aria, and this great idea from the puppeteers, Estelle Charlier et Romuald Collinet, to have her fly away. We were struck. Leos and I did not realize what is the puppet art, which is a thousand-year-old art. They know how to make something, that looks like a human, move… We thought that we would bring them to us, whereas we went to them, there are no animatronics or VFX. When her face moves, her expressions actually change between shots. At a particular time, the director (Simon Helberg) plays for Annette the love song of her parents. As the camera is isolating the conductor, the puppeteers are changing Annette’s face off screen. Then the camera pulls back: she has fallen asleep. It is only manipulation, for them as for us.”
Champetier described her approach to lighting the puppets in order to render skin tones in an interview with Nicolas Rapold for Filmmaker Magazine. “For me, I tried to make her real,” she said. “So yes, with her lighting, I was looking for the skin like with a real child. And of course you can see that it’s a puppet! But Leos, myself, everybody — we didn’t want to fake that with silicone and so on. It was really more poetic, more charming and brave to do it like that with a real puppet, with real puppeteers working while we are doing the shot.”
But there wasn’t mush conversation about what looks lifelike versus what looks artificial, Champetier revealed:
“It’s artificial, like Pinocchio! You don’t ask Pinocchio to be a real boy. You understand, ‘it’s Annette.’ Leos thought, and we thought, that it was impossible to shoot a child from zero to six years. How do you do that? You would need 15 children, because a child changes so much. So, the big decision was to take the concept of a child. And the other decision is, at the end, it’s Annette [played by a real child] and we understand everything was real.”
READ MORE: Leos Carax’s Green Period: DP Caroline Champetier on Annette and Her Work with Jacques Rivette, Claude LanzmAnn Defrasnoux and Philippe Garrel (Filmmaker Magazine)
THE STORM AT SEA
The centerpiece of Annette is a boat trip Henry and Ann embark on in hopes of salvaging their marriage that turns into a violent thunderstorm, both figuratively and literally as the couple argues violently against the backdrop of a dramatic storm at sea. The grandly operatic sequence was filmed inside a studio but without the use of green screen technology, Champetier revealed to Variety.
Instead of using a green screen, which Carax felt was stylistically artificial, the production team employed a projection screen, but that meant the filmmakers could only project b-roll of the sea or the sky, but not both simultaneously. “So Champetier created a puppet version of the set against the projected background to determine her lighting and the coloring of the sea,” Tangcay reports. “The miniature helped her visualize for Carax an alternative solution — projecting only the waves but lit at an attention-grabbing 25,000 lumens.”
“Absolutely it is not a composite,” Champetier commented to Filmmaker Magazine. “Leos does not like the green screen at all, and he does not like compositing too much. He likes when the maximum is done on set.”
The camera and dolly were placed on 65-foot-long, nine-foot-high platform outside the boat and Champetier adjusted the zoom to create the desired effect. “I wanted to give audiences that feeling of being on the boat amid a storm,” she says, “and create that sense of danger.”
Champetier further detailed the shoot for the storm sequence on the Zeiss Lenspire blog:
“The storm scene is entirely shot live. The storm in the background is made of a front screening on a semi-circular, 12-meter-high, 30-meter-wide cyc hanging five meters away from the boat. Two projectors were broadcasting a surfing wave in a loop. We had to find how to represent the sea, should we see the sky or not… I looked for photographs of surf, pictures from Hokusai or Courbet. Quite soon Florian Sanson, the art director, proposed a picture that made me click, were you could see the deck of a boat facing a tsunami. I thought, ‘of course, a water wall, why need the sky?’ This is when the experience I had with the limousine interior in Holy Motors was useful. It already was a projection system, on which I had great help from Jean-Pierre Beauviala [the inventor and founder of Aaton Cameras], whereas everyone else told me that a green screen was the only solution.
“Leos Carax first thought that we should film the scene close to the characters, so that the camera lives through the storm as they do. However, when I discovered how the gimbal supporting the boat worked, I thought that the camera had to remain outside the boat, because if it were attached to the movement, there wouldn’t be any movement. We had a rostrum built to move the dolly all along the boat, so that we were able to improvise with the actors in motion.”
IN-CAMERA VS. VISUAL EFFECTS
Even with Carax’s dictate to achieve as much in-camera imagery as possible, the final sequence of the film, featuring a performance by the titular Annette, employed both live action and CGI. Speaking to AF Cinema, Champetier detailed how the sequence was realized.
The cinematographer initially wanted to shoot the sequence in a real stadium, she said, going so far as to scout locations in 2016. Knowing they’d be unable to populate the stadium, the filmmakers were already thinking of digitally multiplying the crowd.
“Annette would stand on a light cube that echoed Henry’s smoke cube onstage: a great idea by Florian Sanson,” Champetier noted. “In Annette’s cube, there wouldn’t have been smoke, but waves that evoked the storm scene and what Annette saw through her cabin’s porthole. We were thinking of shooting this cube in a studio or a real, empty stadium at night, and we were hoping to film between 30 and 50 extras near the cube, below Annette. So we once again had tangible leads, in a reality in which we all believed.”
The cost of building the set elements became prohibitive, however, and the production removed the cube and stadium. “We decided to keep only the base of the cube, which then became a monolith. It was the visual effects company Mikros Liège that already had the stadium structure seen in the film and which I would have liked to make less elaborate,” she comments.
“Annette is the product of a creation during which people of course made a living, but which has to do with amateurism in the original sense of the word — that is to say, loving what you do. I think the visual effects technicians enjoyed working on Annette. But it’s another world for us who are in a way artisans of cinema, and for whom the shoot retains its majesty, magic, and authority. Without all these production contingencies, I think we could have gone further in this sequence with something that departed from reality and that Leos would have twisted in his own way, and the VFX would have been there in support, like they are at certain moments in the film.”
The production team hired a separate crew of visual effects artists just to handle the puppetry sequences, Champetier told AF Cinema. “The shoot started with Annette’s first performance, because the Opera of Liège, where we shot that sequence, was only available on those dates,” she relates:
“We had decided to leave everything in the dark and therefore easily managed to erase the puppeteers, themselves in black. Annette was lit with a tungsten light on tracks, operated by a lighting technician: it was very ‘old-fashioned.’ Then, when Annette ascended with her song, we used spotlights that belonged to the theater and produced lightning effects: a motif that we repeated outside Ann’s opera and during the storm. Finally, since the film was a Japanese co-production, it was Japanese visual effects artists, Yu Inose and Naotaro Takahashi, who took care of erasing the puppeteers during Annette’s levitation and elsewhere, while the other visual effects technicians were rubbing their hands, saying: ‘We won’t be the ones doing it, because it’s a hell of a job.’ ”
THE COLOR PALETTE OF ANNETTE
The darkness of certain settings in Annette and the story itself — which is amplified by Driver — led the DP to opt for big color whenever possible, she told Filmmaker Magazine. “I am in my green period,” Carax revealed at one point, which Champetier ran with, employing greens for Henry and yellows for Ann. That meant a swimming pool sequence had to be rendered in green rather than the usual blue, as she outlined to AF Cinema:
“LC had associated green with Henry and yellow with Ann. He absolutely didn’t want the pool to be blue, but green. What was difficult for us was to make it powerfully green. An RGB underwater light system was too expensive, so we had to fall back on something much more rudimentary: lights that could be submerged and on which we attached color gels. Even today, the gaffer, Wim Temmerman, is mad at me for not [digitally] removing the clips in the pool, but I know nobody’s going to see them. That’s part of the risks you have to take when you’re not in the Hollywood system and have to meet financial constraints. Each time, you must find a way to solve the problem and fulfill the director’s desire in the film’s own production setup.”
Over on the Zeiss Lenspire blog, Champetier described what she calls a “porous black,” which she hoped to achieve for the film. “Such blacks are not shiny or photographic,” she said. “You can see them in Lynch’s films, in Lost Highway. The 25-250 [lens] provides welcoming blacks. If your blacks are too shiny, you remain at the door. Such a finesse of the blacks is difficult to achieve with digital.”
This porous black was a challenge for “both the film and for the colorist,” Champetier recounted to AF Cinema. “The difficulty is not to achieve it once: the work of the cinematographer is maintaining the consistency of contrasts and texture,” she said. “I hope at least that one can sense the consistency of the black throughout the film. It was its photographic difficulty.”
For Carax, the texture of film stock remains the primary reference for cinema, Champetier said, but Annette wouldn’t have been achieved without a digital camera. “He often says, ‘it’s so crisp, so digital,’ which the film isn’t: I find it quite soft,” she explains:
“As for myself, I have moved on. Anyway, this film would have been difficult to achieve in film stock, because of the blacks. We had to give texture to the black, we didn’t want to make it frightening, but porous, so that we could enter it, and we had to revive it. That is why colors came quickly, and I proposed the reds and the blues to Leos, while he found the green of the swimming pool. The black could not be the winner, we had to work in contradiction.”
SPARKS: RON & RUSSEL MAEL
Carax, perhaps best known in the US for his “narratively unhinged“ 2012 film Holy Motors, received the award for best director for Annette at Cannes. The visionary director contributed to the script written by Sparks duo Ron and Russell Mael, who had first conceived of the story and music as a stage play more than a decade ago.
“The first time we wrote a full-blown movie musical was our adaptation of ‘Mai, the Psychic Girl’ for Tim Burton, which didn’t get made,” Ron Mael told Eric Kohn at IndieWire. “We learned pretty early on from that experience how to incorporate dialogue into a musical setting that feels naturalistic while still feeling stylized. That’s something we really enjoy — incorporating things that don’t ordinarily find people breaking into song. We were able to transfer that kind of thinking to Annette. Songs like ‘So May We Start’ and ‘We Love Each Other So Much’ aren’t song-songs; they’re more like rhythmic speaking, not in a rock-music kind of way but as actual dialogue.”
The only changes Carax made to the Mael’s concept, “was the writing,” he said. “It was only a storyline without characters. The brothers live in this Sparks bubble, which is pop fantasy. There was a lot of irony. Irony in a cinema is a danger, I think. It has a tendency to make everything less crucial, less real. It’s a bit too easy for cinema, especially today. I had to make that irony into something else. We had to really create Henry as a character.”
The story and music were complete before Carax became involved, but “there were certain pieces that he wanted to refine as well as some of the characters. There were eight years of tweaking the dialogue within the pieces that already existed. There were a few pieces that were added at his suggestion,” said Russell Mael.
“‘So May We Start’ was there at the beginning, but Leos added some stuff. The lyrics include the lines, ‘The budget is large, but still not large enough.’ That’s because originally, we thought this would be a stage performance, but the lyrics kind of translated to the movie anyway. Leos he added that break section where they kneel down on the sidewalk. The whole thrust of the piece was there from the beginning, though — the way it serves as this intro to the movie you’re about to see. When we sing that ‘the authors are here so let’s no show disdain, the authors are here, and they’re a little vain,’ that’s us specifically writing about ourselves.”
The infamous number, “We Love Each Other So Much,” ends with Driver singing with his head between Cotillard’s thighs. “The music and lyrics of ‘We Love Each Other So Much’ are identical to our version, but obviously the final part where they’re making love and such — that was Leos’ idea, to have that specific moment,” Russell Mael comments.
“There were so many times where we had a piece of music and just a general idea in our heads of how it would be staged, but he’d take it to these beautiful extremes in almost every case,” Ron Mael adds. “When Henry is performing this, uh, very specific act on Anne, you just shake your head when you see that. I asked Leos when he thought of doing that and he said, ‘From the very beginning.’ “
Carax suggested the number be done in three parts, he recounted to IndieWire. ‘One part is the romantic part, then the rhythmic thing on the motorcycle, then they’re gonna fuck, and then it’s going to calm down.” So we reshaped it that way. Why don’t people in musicals fuck? It’s not a rule but it seems weird. Probably because it’s an old genre. It was a fun process for everyone. It was contagious. The only difficulty was for Marion to sing with her head in a very difficult position.”
READ MORE: Leos Carax and Sparks’ ‘Annette’ Evolution: A Failed Tim Burton Musical, 80 Original Songs, and More (IndieWire)
Want more? Listen to Annette director Leos Carax discuss the making of his newest film on the Film at Lincoln Center podcast in the audio player below:
You can also listen to Eleanor Beardsley’s coverage of Annette for NPR from the red carpet at Cannes, including interviews with Ron Mael, Carax and Cotillard:
In a Q&A with guest moderator Janelle Riley for Film Independent, brothers Ron and Russell Mael discuss their debut movie musical:
Ron and Russell Mael discuss their collaboration with director and co-songwriter Leos Carax on the film’s infectious opening song: