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July 6, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

To say that the 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival feels understated would be something of an understatement in itself. Returning in July (it is usually mounted in May) after the Covid-inflicted cancellation of the 2020 presentation, the usual hallmarks of the annual film celebration appear muted. The streets of the French resort city this year are not teeming with cinema aficionados mingling with — and gawking at — strutting film producers and glamorous movie stars. There is plenty of walk-in seating available at the panoply of restaurants clustered along the Croisette. The weather, warm and humid, has not enticed the usual swarm of tanned bodies to the beaches. The flotilla of grand yachts that usually docks and anchors here has conspicuously diminished. Even a new, gigantic ferris wheel that allows riders to view a spectacular panorama of the Côte d’Azur rotates through the day with almost all of its cages entirely empty.

Yet, Cannes is back, and while the usual phalanx of news photographers and fans outside the Palais des Festivals was thinner than in years past, not much had really appeared to change as the stars of the opening-night film Annette, including Adam Driver and Marian Cotillard, and director Leos Carax, mounted the red-carpeted stairs and entered the theater, where they received a standing ovation before and after the world-premiere screening of their musical. And while there were numerous walkouts during the screening (David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter called it a “long numbing sit”) reviews were mixed and some were outright exuberant. Peter DeBruge in Variety commented, “It’s not for everyone, as there’s little demand for 140-minute bummer musicals at the moment.” However, he acknowledged that “Carax’s grand experiment is certainly bold enough to find its share of defenders.” One of those defenders, Peter Bradshaw, the critic for Britain’s Guardian, enthused, “Annette is a forthright and declamatory and crazy spectacle, teetering over the cliff edge of its own nervous breakdown, demanding that we feel its pain, feel its pleasure and take it seriously.” Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times appeared equally enthusiastic about director Carax’s inventive approach. “Moment by moment, you’re held by its loony flights of lyricism and gorgeous images (shot by Caroline Champetier), and by the mix of sincerity, irony and Sondheimian dissonance that animates every sung-through line,” he wrote. Each of the critics appeared to agree that Annette is a fitting opening to a festival that appears to appraise innovation and daring ahead of all other entertainment values when it comes to determining its selections.