blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Lemonade (2016, Beyoncé Knowles, Dikayl Rimmasch, and Jonas Åkerlund)

A music video is not a short musical. Lemonade, identifying itself as a visual album, is not a music video (or a string of them) and it is not a musical. It borrows something from all of those mediums, with directors Knowles, Rimmasch and Åkerlund instinctively understanding how to mix and match. Lemonade is a performance, but not a film performance. It is a spectacle, but never a garish one. It’s an event, meant to be experienced as one, meant to be shared as one; it initially aired on HBO. There’s just so much going on at once with it.

Lemonade runs just under an hour. Knowles narrates, the narration adapted from Warsan Shire’s poems. The narration explains, the songs explore. But there’s the other, visual layer. It’s not just a music video because there’s cohesion between the numbers (in some ways, Lemonade might be be described as a musical video essay). Knowles is working towards something beyond the “narrative,” which involves a woman discovering and reacting to her husband’s infidelity.

It’s not the story of her self-discovery; she’s already self-discovered. It’s about her rage and joy and sadness and thoughtfulness and compassion. Lemonade is all about compassion, it’s all about understanding. It’s about Knowles’s “protagonist” ruminating, through the songs, through the visuals, questions of her very existence. Except it’s not subtextual questioning. Lemonade isn’t about being a superstar and questioning that existence, it’s about Knowles exploring the questions of being an African-American woman in the United States. Lemonade takes itself very seriously, as it well should.

The directors employ multiple aspect ratios to fantastic effect. They’re guiding the viewers, presenting each song, each visual sequence, for the viewer’s intelligent consumption. It’s impossible to imagine not paying attention to Lemonade. But Knowles, Rimmasch and Åkerlund know how to keep it inviting. Editor Bill Yukich does peerless work here–every cut is outstanding, whether it’s between aspect ratio, shots of the same sequence, shots from different sequences. It’s beyond graceful.

To put it in terms of film jargon, Lemonade is a little like if you made a musical version of a twenty-first century Terrence Malick movie, only employing mostly tone and narration devices from Badlands. The filmmaking has to hit a consistent level of precision in order for its sincerity to work. And the sincerity is the goal, which just makes the filmmaking more ambitious.

To be hyperbolic (but accurate), you don’t watch Lemonade as much as experience it. It captivates visually and narratively. Only the narrative turns out to be a lot different than what the first act implies. Though act isn’t the correct term, because Lemonade sort of creates itself as it goes along.

It’s very difficult to explain; you’d just have to see it. And you should.

One response to “Lemonade (2016, Beyoncé Knowles, Dikayl Rimmasch, and Jonas Åkerlund)”

  1. Dr. Lauren Padron

    This review was not only perfectly articulated, but impressively rediscovered allowing those who haven’t experienced it (which I literally left my boyfriends at the time job lunch in to get home in time to see it, yes I am incredibly dedicated and consistently beyond impressed by her), you beyond nailed it. I’ve seen her twice; once at the formation world tour that kicked off in Miami and I was in the ninth row. This woman fell 3 stories and continuously hit every note. She sounded better than the album somehow and she performed for at least three hours and had a few (very short) breaks in between for outfit changes. She is one in a Million, she’s so dedicated, she’s so appreciate of of her beyhive. Thank you for perfectly articulating what we all who is a part of the beyhive experienced with lemonade. Even if you aren’t a part of the hive, it truly is a captivating cinematic experience that has never been done before. If you haven’t seen her live yet, it’s Probably probably one of the best investments you’ll ever make. You will leave as a different person witnessing her impeccability & perfection throughout the entire performance, her voice, and her genuine appreciation for her fans and team.

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