Carax and Sparks Will Open Cannes 2021

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in Leos Carax’s Annette (2021)

Nine years after Holy Motors premiered in competition in Cannes, Leos Carax returns with Annette, a love story starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg with musical numbers by Sparks. It’s been a long time coming. The project was announced nearly five years ago, and at various stages in its development, Rooney Mara, Rihanna, and Michelle Williams were attached and then detached. Shooting finally wrapped late in 2019, and yesterday, Cannes announced that its seventy-fourth edition will open with the world premiere on July 6.

Driver plays Henry, a provocative stand-up comedian married to Cotillard’s Ann, an internationally renowned singer. All is great and glamorous until their daughter, Annette, is born with a unique gift that will upend their lives. Annette is Carax’s sixth feature and his first in English, and it’s “the gift that lovers of cinema, music, and culture were hoping for, one that we have been yearning for during the past year," says Cannes president Pierre Lescure.

Even as France tightens restrictions on travel from abroad and with all of Europe in the grips of a third wave of COVID-19 infections, the festival is forging ahead with plans for an in-person event slated to run through July 17. Spike Lee is still planning to fly over to preside over the jury, and the full competition lineup should be revealed at the end of May. Annette will be in the running and will also open all across France on the day it premieres in Cannes.

Sparks have been having quite a year. Formed in 1967 by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, the band is currently at work on its twenty-fifth album. In January, Edgar Wright’s documentary The Sparks Brothers premiered at Sundance to excellent reviews. Its 140 minutes “zip by like a tight half-hour,” finds Jessica Kiang in Variety. “In its unbombastic way, with its exhaustive archival footage deep-dive, monochromatic morsels of admiration from more than eighty celebrity interviewees and the brothers interjecting deadpan wit throughout, the film makes a persuasive case that there’s a universe running on a very close parallel to ours where Sparks are the biggest band in the world.”

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