Kanye West's Cruel Summer screens out for attention at Cannes

The rapper's 30-minute short film, which premiered across seven screens in a Cannes car park near the Palm beach, is a wobbly, wandering showcase of West's taste for the grandiose

Kanye West can say that his directorial debut played at Cannes. In a tent, in a car park, 40 minutes walk from the Palais, but it played here. The red carpet at the premiere for Cruel Summer – a 30-minute short presented across seven 20ft square screens – ran directly past a cluster of photographers before stretching towards the sea on its way to the screening room. West (and guests including Kim Kardashian and Jay-Z) walked the important part. The cameras clicked and registered the moment. Kanye cut across the bays to his seat.

Made in association with the Doha Film Institute, Cruel Summer stars West's GOOD Music protege Kid Cudi as a bloke of bad stock. Dad was a car thief – Kid's desperate not to follow in his footsteps, so instead he walks through a sparkly purple door into the middle of the desert. Men on horseback arrest him. He's taken to a palace full of fruit. A blind girl plucks a giant guitar string. Cudi's wrapped in bandages. A hawk flies. In, ultra, slow, motion. Cudi resolves to cure his love of her blindness. The cure for blindness is a remix of a song by Coldplay.

It's as much a short film as a long music video can be. Big, loud and expensive. A wobbly, wandering showcase of West's taste for the grandiose that flirts with the potential of the five across, one up, one down screen setup, but never really commits. The screens expand out of the peripheral, so should invite the audience to stretch to see new details, but for the most part the action in the centre is the action all around. Like a jigsaw of an IMAX screen with pieces missing. The soundtrack (bar the Coldplay) is all from the GOOD Music stable – polished, swaggering hip-hop from Pusha T, Big Sean and Cudi that drives the film in place of plot or pacing.

This, said West after the screening, is a film for the "post-Steve Jobs era, when we have seven screens around us and are nothing if we're not online". It's also, he says, a visual realisation of the rapper's synesthesia ("I've been trying to capture it since I was a kid with a crayon") and a re-invention of cinema ("Maybe one day this will be the way we watch movies"). It's sort of all of these and none of them. It's an advert for the music. An advert for West. He tells us he wants "to build cities, to build amusement parks, to change entertainment" and that this vibrant, cliched showcase of talent buoyed by technology is the start.

Cruel Summer makes a statement. The statement is business as usual. The film, the screening, the car park-bound semi-premiere. This is Kanye selling Kanye, through the latest method that's grabbed his fancy.


Henry Barnes

The GuardianTramp

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