CANNES, France — Kanye West is nothing if not ambitious. The rapper/designer/mogul has added a few more slashes to his name, as producer, writer and director of the experimental short film “Cruel Summer,” which had its premiere during a splashy party Wednesday night during the Cannes Film Festival.
The 30-minute short, inspired by West’s upcoming G.O.O.D. Music compilation of the same name, was projected onto seven screens inside a tented pyramid, designed to give viewers a fully immersive experience. “Cruel Summer” stars G.O.O.D. artist Kid Cudi as a car thief who falls for a blind Arabian princess. The seven screens alternately come on and off, sometimes showing different angles of one shot, other times acting as an extended wide screen, complete with a ceiling and floor. This means the audience looks around them at the images, instead of staring straight ahead, which, as Kanye explained in a speech, was to reflect real life.
“It related to a post-Steve Jobs, post-Windows era, where we’re always on our BlackBerry in a ball game or at the movies,” West said. “I was very particular about having the screens separate, where your mind puts the screens back together, the way you put memories together. I’m not the best director in the world, but I had an idea that I thought would be amazing to inspire people, like a dream of one day this being the way people watch movies. You know, [Quentin] Tarantino doing a movie like this or a horror movie like this, animation, 3-D … in this form that surrounds you. People want to go back and see it more and more because they missed something to their left or to their right, and it feels more like the experience of life.”
“Cruel Summer” plays like an extended music video, in a similar way to ’Ye’s 2010 online film for “Runaway,” with sparse dialogue and striking slow-motion images set to a rocking soundtrack. The music is provided by various G.O.O.D. artists, many of whom make cameos in the film, and there’s a super quick appearance by comedian Aziz Ansari.
Among the celebrity names attending the premiere party at the Palm Beach Club were Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian and Kid Cudi, who told MTV News the experience of watching himself on seven screens was surreal.
“It was weird! But it was dope,” Cudi said. “I’m nervous, just like with anything I do, with people watching, but I’m really proud of it. I’m happy that Kanye had me as part of it. It’s so humbling. He’s a genius, he’s the best, the illest … you can quote me on that!”
“Cruel Summer” was co-directed by Alexandre Moors, who previously worked with ’Ye on the videos for “Runaway” and “N—as in Paris.” The script was based on a screenplay by Elon Rutberg, and it was shot entirely in Qatar in the Middle East.
“We were literally shooting in Qatar less than a month ago,” West said. “It was the most impossible feat, all odds were against us having this moment, showing this at Cannes. The reason why I went so hard is that this is my goal. What I want to do post-Grammys is I want to change entertainment experiences. Like if [late fashion designer Alexander] McQueen or [director] Tarsem [Singh] was to meet the entertainment value of Cirque du Soleil or Walt Disney. We’re going to bring it to New York to Qatar and re-edit it … so you guys are seeing the rough draft of this concept.”
Although the world premiere of “Cruel Summer” coincided with the Cannes Film Festival, it is not in competition or part of the official screenings. The film is now open to the public in Cannes until May 25.