Leos Carax’s rock opera Annette opens the Cannes Film Festival


CANNES: Leos Carax, whose rock opera “Annette” opens the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, has never been afraid to freak people out.

It’s a quintessentially idiosyncratic Carax tale, with an Adam Driver singing as the stand-up comic father of a toddler with an odd gift.

Marion Cotillard plays her world famous soprano mother.

Strangeness has been Carax’s motto since it burst onto the international scene 30 years ago with “The Lovers on the Bridge”, a financial calamity that has become a cult classic.

Its main actor Denis Lavant was seriously injured on the set and did not speak to the director for 15 years.

Co-star Juliette Binoche – who had previously dated Carax – accused him of being a sadist.

Lean and disheveled Carax brought the couple through hell, forcing them to hang out and drink with homeless people to pass themselves off as tramps.

– Bridge too far –

The baroque story of penniless lovers living in some of Paris’ biggest streets quickly ran into trouble, not least because it was to be shot on the famous Pont Neuf.

When it turned out to be a nightmare, an expensive setting recreating the historic heart of the French capital was practically washed away by a storm.

Filming was then brought to a complete halt when Lavant – who had learned to breathe fire to play the beggar who does circus tricks for change – seriously injured his thumb.

Tragedy and disaster will mark Carax’s career as much as his great ambition.

Born Alexandre Christophe Dupont in 1960 – the son of revered Paris-based American film critic Joan Dupont – Carax has never failed in confidence.

His pseudonym is an anagram of his first name Alex and “Oscar”.

And indeed, it seemed his destiny would be to have a fireplace full of Oscars.

Carax was only 30 when “Lovers” came out, but he had already been hailed as the new Godard – displaying similar stylistic brilliance and baffling storylines.

– ‘Films for the dead’ –

It also helped that, like the French master of the new wave, Carax is never without his dark undertones.

“In my films there is no fear of ridicule,” he said.

“You make films for the dead, but you show them to the living,” he added, just as enigmatic.

There were more than enough promises in his first feature films “Boy Meets Girl” in 1984 and “The Night is Young” two years later to warrant the hype.

Not that Carax ever went for easy hits or mass appeal – which was just as good.

After the fury of “Lovers on the Bridge”, it took him nearly a decade to make “Pola X”, a steamy story about a young novelist dating his sister with Russian actress Yekaterina Golubeva, the partner of Carax at the time.

But “Pola X” was a flop and it will be another 13 years before Carax manages to make another film.

During that hiatus, Carax left France for New York and faced a horrific series of personal and professional setbacks that are said to have sunk more.

In 2011, Golubeva, who suffered from depression, committed suicide at 44, leaving Carax to raise their six-year-old daughter.

He dedicated his next film “Holy Motors” to the actress. Released in 2012, it was an unexpected success with audiences, and Lavant – finally reconciled with the director – won the César, a French Oscar, for best actor.

But what the movie was really about, no one guessed.

It follows the actor to hire Mr. Oscar – another nod to Carax’s alter ego, as well as a stunt in Hollywood – who takes us into a weird world of talking limos.

“The movie is simple if you accept that you don’t know where you’re going,” Carax said. “A child who sees the film has no problem (understanding it).”

– Rock opera –

Kylie Minogue singing “Who Were We?” – which Carax wrote for the soundtrack of “Holy Motors” – would foreshadow his latest feature film, a musical.

“Annette” is the story of a glamorous couple, an actor and an opera singer, who have a very gifted child.

Almost all of the dialogue in the film is sung, with Driver and Cotillard using their real voices, and music written by American indie band Sparks.

Queen of Pop Rihanna and Hollywood star Michelle Williams were originally part of the Amazon-backed film, Carax’s first English-language film.

But like so many Carax projects, he seemed cursed.

First Rihanna, then Williams gave up, with production delays and Driver’s “Star Wars” schedule that also prevented filming in the United States, Belgium and Germany.

Then, when it finally ended, theaters around the world closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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