Monday, October 03, 2011

We Were Once a Fairy Tale, Spike Jonze, 2011

We Were Once a Fairy Tale
Spike Jonze, 2011. 11 minutes.

The whimsical surrealism of Spike Jonze and the megalomania of Kanye West combine forces in We Were Once a Fairy Tale to create a drunken fever dream of a short film.

The opening shot sets us in a dark club with flashing lights. The camera moves like a hand-held camcorder, ducking and weaving into different frames and constantly moving in and out of focus. The sloppy, hazy nature of the cinematography matches the drunken slump West finds himself in. Dapperly dressed in a white tuxedo jacket, he slurs his words as he tries to strike up conversations with women. West stumbles around and becomes overly excited when he hears one of his songs playing over the sound system. "It's my song!" he tells a pair of unimpressed women. "I made all the notes!" Proclamations like these play off the stereotype of West as a puerile, out of control egomaniac. It would seem West is in on the joke, and the tension the self-consciousness creates is a great example of star power importing extra meaning to a film. West's celebrity makes the film something of an inside joke we all feel privy to.

Things take a turn for the surreal after West has an encounter with a mysterious woman waiting for him in his hotel room. However, when he wakes up, he finds himself alone on a couch in the club, disoriented as ever. Visually, the film underscores his confusion by pairing the grinding drone of the club's music with blinking, multicolored lights that glow in eerie ways off of West's white jacket. West enters the bathroom to collect his thoughts, only to vomit (pieces of paper), and then stab himself to remove a tiny, rat-like creature from his belly. West then hands the tiny creature a miniature sword, and the creature sighs, then kills itself.

It's a superficial reading, but it seems like the tiny monster West pulls from his belly is meant to be a representation of his "demons," or whatever restlessness is in him that caused him to get belligerently drunk (perhaps the lingering memory of the mystery woman?). West's music often traffics in purple dramatics that would seem to support this idea, too.


haley schattner said...

So many Spike Jonze films on this blog--I am enjoying learning his filming style. What I like about this piece is that you do not know what is real. Did he really meet a woman? If you notice, the woman's leopard print dress is the same pattern as the couch West wakes up on. As you, Emily, mention, he must be fighting an inner demon. The music changes when he enters the mysterious room--is he internalizing his thoughts and emotions?

K. Tyler Christensen said...

This is actually how I've imagined a night out with Kanye-- a an alcohol fueled descent into his ego. Jonze has a surrealist arc in his filmmaking. Kanye is a surreal character. The bathroom scene sort of flesh out a Kanye that maybe he wants us to see, the one that's real, and bleeds and is vulnerable at a club. Buuuuut, I'm not totally buying it. Jonze-- I'm sold. Kanye-- not so much. I would imagine he has more than one of those little creatures living inside of him. Great film choice! Love Jonze.