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Renaissance film review: Beyoncé wrings every last glittering drop out of her tour

Renaissance film review: Beyoncé wrings every last glittering drop out of her tour

Given that it was four years in the making, it’s perhaps not surprising that Beyoncé wants to get every last drop out of her Renaissance tour, which stormed the globe for five months of this year across 56 dates, culminating in its Kansas finale on October 1st.

The starry premiere of the Renaissance film in London last night was a paean to the chrome house created on tour. Glistening silver backdrops and disco balls made up the red carpet backdrop for surprise guest Taylor Swift, as well as Beyoncé herself with daughter Blue Ivy.

In real life it was a little regional nightclub. But that didn’t put off the legions of super fans who were dressed up to the shiny nines in their homages to the diva/female version of a hustla. It is they, the mighty Beyhive, whom this two and a half hour film is really for, a touching love letter to her adoring acolytes, whoever, wherever and whatever they might be.

It opens with their queen grandly singing "I love you", as we’re shown fans streaming, screaming into venues, all crystal-edged cowboy hats, slinky dresses, rainbow flags and major makeup looks.

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In between songs – most, but not all of the tour set features, cleverly intercut with appearances from different venues – we are taken behind the scenes. Morsels of logistic planning are dropped to show just how vast an undertaking it is to produce a tour on this level. There are three enormous stages, reveals Beyoncé; while one is in action in one venue, another will be being set up at the next.

We see her army of women building the vast lighted walls which comprise the set; and her involvement in the minutiae of lighting design and venue staging, sometimes to her chagrin. “As a Black woman” she sighs, “I am used to having to make myself heard.” We see her questioning and pushing her team for better outcomes. “Do I need to repeat myself?” she says, exasperated.

 (Parkwood Entertainment)
(Parkwood Entertainment)

There are glimpses into the vast array of costumes, custom creations from leading luxury houses – Loewe, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Off-White – and the endless sketches and work which go into producing them. The Loewe crystal catsuit, with its trompe l'oeil hands caressing her body, remains the best.

Then there are charming and adorable glimpses into her family life; her mother and father, her three children and husband Jay Z all feature. These give just enough to satiate, but allow her to remain a glossy enigma – a trick of the modern “documentary” produced with, and with every second approved by, its star. Difficulties and traumas are alluded to, but never explicitly.

11-year-old Blue Ivy offers song choice advice, her mother gently tells her to pipe down. Blue’s on stage appearance is charted; her friend passes on how the internet has derided her first show. Blue goes back on, determined to get better every night. “That’s a Knowles” laughs Mathew, her grandfather.

A stop in her hometown of Houston brings a drive by her childhood home, a brief OG Destiny’s Child lineup reunion (sadly, very short) and a declaration as she bites into a succulent piece of fried chicken that “I gotta get out of the South”.

Poignant moments come when remembering her Uncle Jonny, whom the album Renaissance celebrates; blending queer ballroom culture with house music in remembrance of the tunes he played to her and her sister when they were growing up. It was her uncle along with her mother who painstakingly handmade Destiny’s Child's first stage looks, before he died from HIV-related illness. It’s this passport into queer culture which crowns the film, the world of Renaissance is a utopia where everyone is free to live as themselves, Beyoncé emotes.

 (Beyonce/Youtube)
(Beyonce/Youtube)

She breaks down her existence into three parts; the mother, the mogul running her businesses, and the performer on stage – where she is able to release her inner self: “I’m not responsible for what she does” she laughs. But the only time she seems to have for herself are the brief minutes it takes to remove her makeup at the end of each show.

There are stops in Cannes for a little Cote d'Azur R ‘n' R; Diana Ross comes on stage and sings her happy birthday; Kendrick Lamar and Meghan Thee Stallion’s guest appearances also feature.

The film draws to a close with Beyoncé declaring that her 40s (she is now 42) are her best decade yet. “I used to be a people pleaser” she offers, “now I just don't give a f***”. Said as only a woman about to mount a life-size silver horse to fly over a stadium filled with her enraptured Beyhive could.

In cinemas