Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
France/Mexico/USA/Switzerland/Belgium/Japan/Germany, 2021. CG Cinéma, ARTE, Arte France Cinema, BE TV, Barnstormer Productions, Canal+, Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Cinéaxe, Cinémage 14, Cofinova 16, Detailfilm, Eurimages, Euro Space, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Filmforderungsanstalt, Garidi Films, Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, Indéfilms 8, Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, Kinology, LVT Inc., Palatine Etoile 17, Piano, Proximus, SCOPE Invest, SG Image 2018, Sacem, Scope Pictures, Screen Flanders, SofiTVciné 7, Talipot Studio, Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge, Theo Films, Tribus P Film, UGC, VOO, Wallimage, Wrong Men North, ZDF/Arte. Story and Screenplay by Ron Mael, Russell Mael. Cinematography by Caroline Champetier. Produced by Charles Gillibert, Paul-Dominique Win Vacharasinthu. Music by Ron Mael, Russell Mael. Production Design by Florian Sanson. Costume Design by Pascaline Chavanne, Ursula Paredes Choto. Film Editing by Nelly Quettier.
Nine years after his spellbinding Holy Motors, Leos Carax once again invites us into his mystical, intoxicating world of doomed romance. This time he sets the action to the tunes of the Sparks Brothers, whose concept album has been turned into a screenplay that begins with the newly formed passion between post-modern comedian Adam Driver and opera singer Marion Cotillard; as with all of Carax’s atmospheric efforts, their paparazzi-encased romance is mixed in with other love affairs, between the director and the art of cinema, between the screen and the audience, presenting various forms of artistic expression and multiple layers of reality as erotic couplings that carry you smoothly through a capricious narrative like a gentle ocean wave. Driver and Cotillard, at the height of their passion, give birth to a child who is portrayed through most of the film by a computer-generated marionette (then concludes with an incredible performance by Devyn McDowell in human form), and as the child wordlessly observes her parents’ relationship grow brittle, Cotillard begins to doubt her trust in a man whose unpredictable edges have given way to self-destructive despair. Simon Helberg, once again putting his piano skills to use on film, acts as Greek chorus as he supports the couple through their worst times without realizing that he is standing too close to a dangerous situation. The Sparks’ music, tuneful and capricious, creates an Umbrellas of Cherbourg feeling of expressive jazziness in a darker key, beautifully accompanying the stars’ glamour and Carax’s inky, beautiful images that are often accented with points of neon light. For some, the film will be an exercise of overwrought shallowness, there’s not as much depth to the characters or their emotions as there is to the actual expression of those emotions, this is a film where the aesthetics are its substance, but it does so with expertise and flair.
Cannes Film Festival Award: Best Director (Leos Carax)