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Kanye West brings his visionary Cruel Summer to Cannes

Kanye talks about reinventing entertainment and why he created this seven-screen cinema installation experience.

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Source: Andrew H Walker/Getty Images for DFI

Kid Cudi, Ali Suliman, Hayat Al Fahad, Kanye West, Razane Jammal, Sarah A arrive at Cruel Summer screening and party in Cannes on Wednesday night.

As one of Kanye West’s closest 250 personal friends, I was invited to go see the first world premiere screening last night of Cruel Summer, his short film/installation piece.

A special pyramid shaped temporary cinema had been set up for the occasion behind Palm Beach in Cannes. The film is uniquely presented on seven screens in what he calls ‘surround vision.’

The film drew mixed responses – the story wasn’t quite Spielberg — but I thought there was a lot to admire – the ambitious scale of it, the immersive screens, the seat-shakingly-loud music, and some very striking imagery. The story was about a blind princess who was scared to open her heart to a young man who wanted to fight for her and bring some joy back into her life after her mother’s death. There were car chases (very cool on the seven screens), falcons flying, horses riding through the desert and music coming to life in colours.

Kanye spoke charmingly before and after the screening about some of his inspirations.

Of the multiple screens, he noted that we’re all visually multi-tasking in the modern world. “In the post Steve Jobs, post Windows era, you’re looking at all these screens all the time…By having the screens be separate, your mind puts the screens back together again….Maybe one day Tarantino will do a work like this.”

He was humble about being a new filmmaker. “I’m not the best director or anything,” he said. “But I want to inspire people.”

The Grammy-winning hip-hop star confessed after the screening that he’d been nervous: “I was sitting and squirming [before it started showing] but I felt like people got it during the [opening] car chase.” It helps that he had friends like Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Big Sean, and new girlfriend Kim Kardashian in the audience.

Of the colour-music connection, he said he had Synesthesia – “I knew I could see shapes and sounds. I can see sound in front of me.”

He’s certainly ambitious – there was talk of theme parks and changing cities and “McQueen meets Cirque du Soleil and Disney.”

The immersive seven-screen concept worked really well for me, it does make you think that more films could be made like this, and as Kanye said, it could keep audiences coming back for more views to concentrate on a screen they missed on first viewings. Sounds a potentially good monetary move for the film world as well as a creative one.

The whole project was made in less than three months, a shockingly fast turnaround for any film, much less one using seven screens. “We were in Qatar shooting less than a month ago. It’s been a very crazy last few months,” he said. “It’s surreal to see it come into fruition like this.” He suggested the version we saw (which did have a few sound issues) was a rough cut of the final product. Once it’s finished Cruel Summer will show in New York, Qatar, and in installations around the world, he said.  

The film includes music from his forthcoming album of the same name for G.O.O.D Music.

His company Donda created the film, in assocation with the Doha Film Institute which was a cultural and creative advisor on the film. It was presented by CANOC and Belvedere.

The film is now open to the public in Cannes for the next two days (RSVP at www.cruelsummer.com).

Given my slight obsession (read all about it here and here) with Kanye since Cannes last year, I had to go shake his hand and tell him congratulations on a groundbreaking piece of work. (Thanks to Charles Gant’s burgeoning paparazzi skills for capturing the moment in a photo. From her expression, I think Kim wants me to step away.)

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Did you know the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) produced a 16mm 9 screen synchronised film in 1972 entitled A Motion and a Spirit. It was the first synchronised multiple screen production made and shown in Australia.
    The SAFC is currently exploring the possibilities of remounting this screening as part of the South Australian Film Corporation’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations which will be taking place in October this year. For more information about the South Australian Film Corporation (Australia’s oldest government screen agency) click here http://www.safilm.com.au/Article/NewsDetail.aspx?p=16&id=2231

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