Home Leisure & Sports Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé (***)

Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé (***)

by Dwight Brown, NNPA Film Critic
Beyoncé collaborated with several progenitors of dance music on the album, such as Grace Jones and Nile Rodgers. (photos courtesy of wikimedia)

Mother/wife, CEO and performer, Beyoncé knows who she is. Now the rest of the world will too. Just like her Beehive, a fan club that she showers with love and devotion: “My heart is full. My soul is full.”

The Destiny’s Child lead singer has some news. She’s grown as a solo artist. From a vocalist who can dance her ass off, to a leader who can knit together a family of musicians, dancers, designers and stage crew members and produce an astonishingly beautiful concert tour. One that cataloged 56 dates in 39 cities grossing $579 million—eighth highest grossing concert tour ever; highest grossing Black tour ever. Furthermore, she’s written, co-directed (with James B. Merryman, Mark Ritchie) and stars in this documentary concert film.

For those who couldn’t get or afford tickets to the tour, here it is: Best seat in the house; front row when you’d want it; views from afar when you need perspective; even in midair when she rides a silver horse figure up into the rafters (cinematographers Dax Binn and Kenneth Wales). Most of the well-known songs from her career are sung, danced to and choreographed to a ‘T.’ Favorites from her recent Grammy-winning album Renaissance, including the chart-topping hit ‘Break My Soul’ and the powerful ‘Cuff It,’ are performed and echoed by audiences that numbered up to 70,000 in one stadium.

The song interpretations are astutely and artistically clipped together from several concerts. As one routine is in full display, magically the singers and dancers’ costumes change color—same song, same vocals pulled together from different venues. Unfortunately, the editors’ judicious snipping doesn’t include the film’s length. At two hours and 49 minutes, forward momentum ebbs and flows. Axing 30 minutes of footage would have made everything more consistently mesmerizing and rhythmic.

Delving into Beyonce’s personal life becomes quite intimate. Mom, kids, husband and her much loved but deceased Uncle Johnny, a gay man who introduced her to house music and made her costumes, are all part of this portrait. Sometimes she’s profound: “I created a space where everyone is free.” Sometimes not so much: “A diva is a female hustler.” Hearing her philosophize about her life, time, artistry and psyche is good for the most part, but in the long run it bloats the footage. Though the Beehive may beg to differ.

The clear high points are the dazzling performances. Hard to name another singer/dancer who can top what she does, bring that energy on tour and be even better in concert than she is on record. Second billing must go to the eye-catching lighting design, glittery costumes and astounding scenery. This is a show of shows. Add in guest performances, by Megan Thee Stallion, Kendrick Lamar and Diana Ross, and the star quotient is heavenly.

By film’s end, minus a couple of lapses, Queen B has pulled you in. She’s self-assured, loving, sensitive, thoughtful, imaginative, determined and ready for the next phase in her life—joy.

Joy is what Beyoncé brings to this very entertaining and tender documentary. A contagious sense of optimism and acceptance for everyone. Movie goers who weren’t ardent fans before, will be now. Brava!

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