Beyoncé's ‘Renaissance’ is a mesmerizing prism of contradictions

The pop star’s newest documentary film goes beyond her concert tour, becoming a daring revelation of her true self

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé released in Canadian and U.S. theatres on Dec. 1 and has hit $35 million in global box office revenue. (Flickr/Raph_PH)

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé released in Canadian and U.S. theatres on Dec. 1 and has hit $35 million in global box office revenue. (Flickr/Raph_PH)

In the grand tapestry of Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé, the global superstar and generational icon unfolds her many facets, creating a dazzling spectacle — both powerful and paradoxical. 

Over nearly three hours, Beyoncé effortlessly transitions from a benevolent goddess to Afrofuturist cyborg, captivating her audience with authenticity and versatility.

As the mastermind behind the film, Beyoncé’s commitment to perfection is evident, echoing her pursuit of excellence seen in the previous documentary Homecoming. Unlike Taylor Swift’s recent concert film, The Eras Tour, “Renaissance” not only captures the live performances but delves behind the scenes, offering a unique blend of familiarity and originality. 

The black-and-white cinematography, reminiscent of Madonna: Truth or Dare, adds a quiet warmth to moments of rehearsal, family time with Jay-Z and their kids, and even a brief reunion with Destiny’s Child bandmates in her Houston hometown.

Amidst the artful propaganda and exquisite cinematography, Beyoncé’s generosity shines as she acknowledges the extensive backstage crew, emphasizing the pride she takes in having numerous women contribute to the production. For those who appreciate films about process and proficiency, “Renaissance” is an entertaining exploration, regardless of one’s familiarity with Beyoncé as an artist.

However, the film keeps us aware that we’re seeing Beyoncé through her specific prism — there are no candid moments. The cinematography, frequently shifting aspect ratios, and breathtaking editing contribute to the most artful propaganda. The film is a visual feast, showcasing Beyoncé’s inspired costumes, ranging from couture bodysuits to neon-green hooded gowns.

“Renaissance” becomes an intimate yet vast experience, celebrating Beyoncé’s beauty while highlighting the profound sense of community within the “Beyhive.” As a queer icon, her connection with the LGBTQIA+ community is evident, paying tribute to her late uncle Johnny and acknowledging the significance of fashion and house music in her life.

Amidst the spectacle, the music is a pivotal element, ranging from classics to recent hits with cameo appearances from Megan Thee Stallion and Kendrick Lamar. Beyoncé’s vocal prowess remains unparalleled, even as she exerts herself physically across the massive stage. The film, spanning two hours and 48 minutes, might feel exhaustive, but superfans would argue it’s never enough.

A surprising emotional turn occurs with the introduction of Beyoncé’s 11-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, dancing during several numbers. The pride of a mother witnessing her child’s growth adds a touching layer to the spectacle.

In the homestretch of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, the absurd takes center stage, revealing itself as a face-warping concert movie and an unexpectedly transparent feat of self-portraiture. The film extends beyond the expected, incorporating outrageous costumes and surreal moments that elevate it to a level of divine camp.

Among the myriad costumes, the most outrageous one emerges in the form of a bee — a Thierry Mugler creation that lands somewhere between a bathing suit and Barbarella. The exoskeleton breastplate in yellow and black paired with thigh-high boots is an aesthetic trip. 

However, it’s not just the costume, it’s the matching helmet and yellow-tinted shades covering the top half of Beyoncé’s face, complete with swinging antennae. This extravagant ensemble is donned for her dedicated fans in the “Beyhive.”

As Beyoncé’s fifth long-form visual project, “Renaissance” solidifies her status as an auteur. It goes beyond the mere chronicle of a tour, becoming a daring revelation of her true self. The film is a testament of her evolution, daring to be true and allowing audiences to witness her creative process. With a nod to the absurd, divine camp and a cinematic journey of self-discovery, “Renaissance” is an immersive experience that transcends the expectations of a concert film.

For audiences who missed the live performances or those eager to relive the spectacle, watching “Renaissance” in a theater with excellent sound becomes the optimal choice. Even when technical glitches occur, as experienced during her performance of “Alien Superstar” in Glendale, Arizona, Beyoncé’s professionalism and ability to turn challenges into opportunities shine through.