Leos Carax and his singing baby puppet

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The French director talks about the wooden baby in his melancholic musical Annette and why he finds Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa and Kaagaz ke Phul inspiring.

Leos Carax, a 60-year-old French filmmaker with a total of six feature films in his 40-year career, is arguably one of the most controversial and quirky directors of our time. From Boy meets girl (1984) by Lovers on The is a bridge (1991) by Pola X (1999) and Holy motors (2012), it is nearly impossible to generalize or even clearly define what his films are really about.

After the world premiere Holy motors At the 2012 Locarno Film Festival, I once made the mistake of asking him what the movie was really about. To which Karax, his eyes, as usual, were covered with sunglasses, turned and said: “I have no idea. You tell me?”

This time, I decided not to repeat this mistake.

Working with the driver

His last film, Annette, Premiered on November 24 on Mubi, it will take him outside Europe to the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles. This is a strange melodramatic musical about the aggressive comedian Henry (Adam Driver) and the famous opera singer Anne (Marion Cotillard), who fell in love like movie stars of the past and gave birth to a girl named Annette. Standard price? Only the girl here is a wooden doll, and no one seems to notice. In the end, as Henry spends time courting Annette and Anne’s star continues to rise, the inevitability of marital breakup ends their relationship and the couple plunges into uncontrollable darkness. This year, the film won the Caraxa award for Best Director in Cannes. Karax, the hermit, was not present at the closing ceremony.

Annette marks a departure for Karax in both language and casting terms. Almost all of his films, except Pola X and now Annettefeaturing Denis Laban, arguably one of the most versatile actors in cinema. It wasn’t difficult to make the decision to shoot the film without Laban during a video call from Paris, Karax said. “This is a singing film in English with a younger character. Denis was not suitable for this role. I was lucky to work with Adam, ”he says, pointing out that he was attracted by Driver’s physical nature and his“ ape-like ”spirit after seeing him in Lena Dunham’s film. Girls.

Music Creation

Melancholic musical, AnnetteThe songs were written by Ron and Russell Mail, commonly known as the Sparks brothers, who are also credited with the script for the film. But if the pop and rock duo co-wrote the film, Karax found himself working on songs for the film. “I had to make them mine. And fortunately, since there was no money, we had a lot of time. Actually, seven years! “

The director and musicians hung out in Paris, and after the meeting, Carax sent them lyrics, which the duo weaved into songs. “It’s hard to say who was doing what now, because everything merged into one another. When there is no singing, it’s me … some other fragments in other songs, and then the last scene in prison is me. “

Not just a puppet baby

While there are several ways to interpret what the wooden baby means – from the media’s obsession with highlighting celebrity children to a vivid indication of the way Henry views women (like puppets) – Karax has a pretty straightforward explanation.

“It is impossible to find a child of this age who sings. I didn’t want to do this. But it came to me in the blink of an eye, and then I had to present the whole film around this child. Over time, we all became attached to the puppets. The final challenge was also to find a real five-year-old girl who could confront her father, but then, as the film says, miracles do happen. “

Works on doubts and fears

In the film, Henry from the driver has a fickle relationship with the audience. He uses comedy as a way out of his anxiety, sometimes even humiliating the audience. But he also seeks their confirmation as a means of establishing his power. The main characters of Karax often turn out to be his confidants. While he definitely doesn’t have a hostile attitude towards his patrons, he does have a really difficult relationship with them.

“The more viewers you have,” says Karax, “the easier it is for you to make films. I am aware of this. When I was younger, I would say that I wanted to make films for the dead. It’s hard to say for whom I make films. Annette There are so many layers of reality and unreality in it that you end up wondering if people will accept it? It’s unavoidable “. Karax says he cannot re-engineer the film to suit the tastes of his audience. Instead, he says, “You put your doubts, fears and questions into the film. It’s interesting to imagine yourself as a bad father. “

Secrets of Success

An unyielding provocateur, Karax had a hard time making films in Europe, where film culture was generally regarded as a thriving ground for avant-garde and experimental filmmakers. Annette this is his first English film, and this is also with actors who are popular in Hollywood.

“In the 90s, I couldn’t make too many films because of my reputation. Sometimes it was due to a lack of money. And often this was due to the fact that I could not make my films. Even if I could make every possible film, I would not make four or five more films. I guess that’s my rhythm. “

Among the many themes that animate Karax’s work, Annette specifically explores the insecurity in marriage between two people engaged in creative pursuits. Does he think that the feeling of envy between two artists is an inevitable result of the clash and rivalry of their talents? “For me, success is more than wealth. I like to ask if people really want to be successful? If so, why? What happens when they get it, and more importantly, is success really good for people? “

Art at what cost?

Karax mentions that the films that have influenced and shaped his own filmmaking are those of Guru Dutt. Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phul, both films are about artists who experience personal pain in their pursuit of creativity. Does he support this romanticized notion of great art, which comes from personal turmoil, that does not contradict the general theme Annette?

“Yes. I am very inspired by Guru Dutt. Be it their characters or their own life, their films spoke of destructive power. Usually men, almost always men, self-destruct, trying to create, live and love, but not being able to create, live or love. “

Annette It premiered on Mubi on November 24.

Ankur Pathak is a Mumbai-based writer who was formerly the editor of an entertainment magazine HuffPost India



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