Kanye West premiered his much-discussed short film/art installation Cruel Summer at the Cannes Film Festival last night. Starring Kid Cudi as a car thief who falls in love with a blind Arabian princess, the clip is the project he was reportedly working on in the Middle East in February. The film’s cast also includes Razane Jammal, Pusha T, Big Sean, Palestinian actor Ali Suliman, Aziz Ansari and West himself.
As MTV points out, Cruel Summer is similar to West’s 2010 short film Runaway in that it’s an extended music video with little dialogue and plenty of striking imagery. Cruel Summer utilizes seven screens and features completely new music from West and his G.O.O.D. Music affiliates that will reportedly appear on an album, also titled Cruel Summer, set for release sometime this year. Reactions to the music have been overwhelmingly positive, with MTV calling it “rocking” and GQ senior editor Logan Hill tweeting from the premiere that the music “was the best part – big complex production, huge beats.” The Hollywood Reporter noted multiple instances of chair-dancing in the audience.
Response to the film has also been generally warm. The Los Angeles Times film blog 24 Frames wrote, “The story is secondary to the pyrotechnics, with new music from West and a thumping surround-sound quality that makes a 3D Michael Bay effort feel like an iPad short.”
Vulture, meanwhile, praised West’s “great visual sense” and noted the effectiveness of the special camera rig invented for the film to incorporate all seven screens, whether it was stretching a single shot across multiple screens or having each display a different image/angle during a single scene. “The movie is all Kanye’s vision – his images, his music and costumes he designed, mixed with pieces by local Arabian designers,” wrote Jada Yuan. “He put it together in two-and-a-half months with only four days of actual shooting.”
In a speech following the film, West said, “I was very particular about having the screens be separate and having it where your mind puts the screens back together – the way you can put memories together, the way that happens throughout the day and it all links back up.”
Vulture also managed to score a comment from one of the many stars in attendance, Jay-Z. “It’s about the things that separate us — race and class in society and things like that. But the only thing that really binds us is true love,” he said.
West said he will keep working on and improving the film, and he plans to bring it to Qatar and New York in the future.
“I’m not the best director in the world or anything like that, but I had an idea,” said West during his post-film speech. “I could dream of, one day, this being the way that people watch movies, in this form where it surrounds you and people want to go back and see it more and more because they missed something else to the left and missed something else to the right, and it felt more like the experience of life.”