Jay-Z has a flair for the theatrical. Does he also have a flair for the cinematic?
The rapper’s latest stunt, a six-hour performance of “Picasso Baby” — he rapped the song over and over at an art gallery in New York on Wednesday to promote his new record “Magna Carta Holy Grail” — is apparently being shot for a music video. But it’s not just any music video. It’s a video for the Hollywood director Mark Romanek, who had a little burst of cinema with his “99 Problems” video for Jay-Z several years back. (Though I’m currently in New York, I wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s show. Lots of people did, though, and were happy to remind us of that fact on social media.)
The gig has a very cinematic feel, and not just because Jay-Z is behind the soundtrack for the recent “Great Gatsby” — a movie that’s completely in sync with the kind of inclusive showiness of Wednesday's performance.
The stunt also has echoes of Tilda Swinton, the eclectic actress who recently took to sleeping in a glass box at MOMA. And Marina Abramovic turned out for the “Magna” show. The performance artist is the subject of her own recent documentary, "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present,” and it feels like its spirit also animates Hova’s popup turn.
But it’s Romanek’s presence that underscores just how commingled the world of music, art and cinema can be. Interestingly, the filmmaker presents his own untidy narrative. The director of the underrated dystopian drama "Never Let Me Go,” Romanek hasn’t made a movie since that film flopped three years ago. But a new Jay-Z video — especially if it has a significant amount of heat — could put him back on the radar of both film and music fans.
Nor is Romanek the only director who attended the concert: Judd Apatow reportedly turned out, too. Which means that in a future Apatow movie, we might well expect Paul Rudd's married man to sneak away from his wife so he can hear a secret rap performance at a downtown art gallery.
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