Art by Kaley
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except maybe death, taxes and that Beyoncé is taking over the world.
Already in 2013, she has performed at Obama’s 2nd inauguration and the Super Bowl. While watching these two performances (if you count lip-synching as performing), I found myself captivated by her presence, yet knowing next to nothing about her. Other stars such as Kanye West, for better or worse, live a more transparent life – allowing the public to get glimpses into their personal lives. Luckily, to add to her world domination of 2013, she debuted a documentary on HBO titled, “Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream.”
Immediately I felt lost watching the documentary. It became obvious that the film wasn’t made for the casual fan. I was left googling a lot of things, such as Beyonce’s age and how she met Jay-Z (31 and they made an album together). The film is oddly structured and there is little introduction to who Beyoncé is. We first see her in some grainy footage taken by her dad when she was just a baby, barely able to walk. Later we are informed through some soundbites that she has a troubled relationship with her father. We never hear specifics, other than he was her manager and now he isn’t. It seems that the movie, which was produced, co-directed, written and starred in by Beyoncé attempts to paint her as a person who struggles rather than as a flawless figure. Yet it backs away from actually addressing these troubles which left me more confused and with more questions than before I saw the film. As Jody Rosen puts it beautifully for The New Yorker , “the curtain is yanked back to reveal another curtain.” Beyoncé is used to the camera and always seems aware of the documentary team in the room. Leaving me doubting the candidness and truth in many of the scenes.
One of the biggest reveals of the documentary was that before having her first child in 2011, she had a miscarriage. When Beyoncé speaks about being a mother and what it means to her, I was glued to the screen. Everything she said was heartfelt and sounded truthful. I found myself questioning a lot of the talking head portions of the film, because as she says herself she wants many things to remain private. This part of the film broke a roadblock I have with many celebrities. Here she was, talking about what it meant for her to have children. I was captivated until she mentioned that she even considered retiring. The film itself proves Beyoncé’s need for attention.
My favorite scenes clips were of her and Jay-Z. Jay-Z, who himself is deserving of a similar style documentary, was such a small presence in the movie which left me disappointed. Yet the scenes where he shown do not disappoint. At the end of an acceptance speech for an award, Beyoncé thanks her husband, “I don’t want to put you on the spot, because I know they are probably putting the camera in your face, but I love me some Jay-Z” she giggles. The camera pans to a stoic Jay-Z who silently nods, slowly revealing a smile.
Another favorite is a scene that immediately follows, which is directed by Jay-Z who turns the tides by putting the camera in her face. We see Beyoncé at the end of what appears to be a Yacht in some mediterranean body of water. The camera is awkwardly close to her face, which disturbs the otherwise intensely intimate nature of the shot. Jay-Z, always self congratulatory, remarks at how beautiful the shot is. It seems that like a 14-year old girl on Flickr, Jay-Z has only just discovered camera flare. The corniness of this interaction has traces of candidness. Beyoncé rants, almost coherently about how life is so wonderful and that she lives for moments like this. Then she delivers the title of the movie and jumps into the water
I viewed this film as a chance to see Beyoncé behind the scenes, which was the wrong way to approach it. The movie felt so manicured, as it is from Beyoncé’s perspective. Much like the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, the movie felt more like an autobiography. Everything included or excluded was Beyoncé’s choice. I watched the film intending to learn more about Beyoncé, which was a mistake. Yet at the end of the movie I was dancing and singing along with Beyoncé. While I still don’t know who Beyoncé really is, Beyoncé the performer won my heart over.
Some other thoughts I had while watching:
- Beyonce also talks to her computer? How does she look so glamorous even while she awkwardly walks with her macbook?
- I find it hard to view Beyoncé as sexy, I find her more adorable than sexy especially with her behind the scenes stuff. Like the way I imagine most people view Taylor Swift.
- Maybe it’s just because I am scared of looking at Beyonce as a sex symbol because of a fear that Jay-Z will beat me up
- WTF is she wearing in Destiny’s Child. Was 2001 really like that?
- That scene where they are driving in the Holland Tunnel and singing makes me so happy.
- Mozambique dancers are awesome.
- I wish I danced.
- Miscarriage :(
- The documentary seems to be made with a lot of negativity. Anger at her dad. Anger at executives. Anger at herself. Be happy Beyoncé!
- This left me thinking, does anyone besides Beyoncé dislike Beyoncé?
- Strange that in a scene where she talks about how important it is to her to be a good mother, she immediately hands her baby to an assistant offscreen
- “There are crazy celebrities, so we all get a bad rap”
- That baby DOES look like Drake.
-Jackson Krule, Guest Writer/ inconnu’s favorite photographer ; krule.tumblr.com ; jacksonkrule.com