Cannes 2012: Kanye West, auteur?


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CANNES, France -- For years, Hollywood actors would get under the skin of musicians by cutting an album between movie shoots. Now Kanye West is returning he favor.

The hip-hop superstar has directed an approximately 30-minute film, ‘Cruel Summer,’ which stars fellow rapper Kid Cudi and the Lebanese actress Razane Jammal (with a bit part by West) and unfolds over seven screens in a specially designed pop-up theater. It took West about three months to develop and shoot the movie, which he did in Qatar earlier this year.


On Wednesday night at a swanky party at the Cannes Film festival, the rapper debuted the movie, which plays somewhere between a narrative featurette and an extended music video. (Or, as the media notes have it, ‘a seven-screen experience installation combining the world of art, architecture and cinema.’)

Cudi stars as a thief of high-end sports cars who falls in love with a blind Arabic princess. But the princess’ father won’t allow the pair to marry unless the thief can help her see, so the hero must find a way to make it happen (metaphorically).

The story is secondary to the pyrotechnics, with new music from West and a thumping surround-sound quality that makes a 3-D Michael Bay effort feel like an iPad short. ‘Cruel Summer’ was shot with multiple cameras, with each screen offering a different perspective on the action. ‘I can dream one day that will be the way ... people will watch movies,” West told the audience after the screening.

After a few days of screenings here, West plans on taking the movie to cities around the world, including Doha, Qatar, where it will play the film festival in November. (The Doha Film Institute co-produced ‘Cruel Summer.’)

After the Cannes screening, West, girlfriend Kim Kardashian and fellow rapper Jay-Z mingled at the party, as West could be heard saying that he didn’t want to go with just one screen when he could go seven.

The premiere marked a return to Cannes for West, who last year gave a memorable performance at a party for financier Red Granite. (‘Entourage’ enthusiasts will also recall that West appeared on the show to give Vince and the boys a ride to Cannes on his private jet.)


Given his new short -- and his frequenting of Cannes -- does West want to make his mark in the film world beyond cameos and soundtrack appearances? Asked by 24 Frames if he wants to be a director, West smiled and replied, ‘I don’t answer questions.’ So he’s basically halfway there.


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-- Steven Zeitchik