“Is Beyonce’s new visual album, Lemonade, a feature film? It’s a 56-minute narrative movie mixing music, documentary and experimental elements. This Womanist fairytale — featuring American Southern, Voodoo, and Afrofuturist utopian imagery — is most of all a personal film, though co-directed by seven people, including Beyonce Carter-Knowles herself. (Director, star, and something more, Beyonce is redefining authorship. As a black woman, that’s a necessity; she has to rewrite all the rules if she wants to work and evolve in movies.)
And, as she gets more personal, she gets more political. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” Malcolm X says early in the film in archival footage. This is a movie made by a black woman, starring black women, and for black women, especially for herself and her daughter Blue. It shows the personal journey she’s been on, a sort of awakening, and remarkably brings the viewer on that same journey.
Her last visual album, 2013’s Beyonce, was a collection of videos, one for each song on the album, some of which she also co-directed. The treat of that was seeing the variety of roles she could play, like a Greta Garbo or Elizabeth Taylor acting out many scenarios yet always maintaining her own persona. Beyonce was like an old-fashioned movie star. The imagery for “Partition” was especially classic Hollywood, and an oh-so-rare opportunity to glimpse a black woman as the lead in a film noir.
Lemonade digs even deeper. It cuts back all the macho gristle leaving only a strong matriarchal line. Visual references are from an (unfortunately) secret canon of women, black women directors like Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust).
What’s most revolutionary and cathartic about Lemonade, though, is that it dares to make a new canon, finding references in the unphotographed past and future simultaneously, a land of no men…”