Kanye West in Spike Jonze’s “We Were Once a Fairytale”

Short film by ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ director has odd parallels to West’s recent life.

You’ve heard of art imitating life. What about life imitating art? After months of slow-boil hype, the eagerly anticipated re-hookup between Kanye West and “Where the Wild Things Are” director Spike Jonze, “We Were Once a Fairytale,” was released over the weekend.

And, as with the last time these two collaborated (on the “Flashing Lights” video), the results are mind-bending and a bit too close to home. The 11-minute short film  which is not a video for any specific song but features bits of “See You in My Nightmares”  was shot in Los Angeles over two days in January, and it opens with West playing himself. The video was posted on West’s blog on Sunday and was supposed to be released on iTunes in September, but as of press time it still did not appear to be on the store.

We begin with West visibly drunk and acting pleasantly tipsy in a nightclub, yelling to adoring club kids that the song blasting over the speakers is his. Not getting the reaction he expected from his audience, the tuxedo-clad singer stumbles across the club making random inappropriate comments to women who seem unimpressed with his fame. After bumping into Fonzworth Bentley, West grinds on the dance floor, singing along to his own song at the top of his lungs in an impressionistic blur of rich blues, red and purples, his eyes seriously glazed over. He ends up meeting a beautiful woman and they start having sex, but he passes out on her leopard-skin dress. When he wakes up, he’s in the VIP room with his pants around his ankles; he realizes it was a dream and that he’d actually made love to a leopard-skin pillow.

Startled and dejected by the scene, he staggers to a bathroom while holding one of his shoes and then violently vomits what looks like a stream of rose petals before collapsing to the floor. Lying on the tile, he finds a big bowie knife and uses it to cut his stomach open, which leads to another rose-petal cascade. And then things get even more bizarre, as Kanye digs deeper with the knife, reaching in to grab a small, kinda cute rodent-like demon, connected to its host by an umbilical cord. The ratlike creature stares lovingly at West, who seems sad, defeated and a bit confused at the sight.

‘Ye rips the cord out and puts the demon rat on the countertop, handing it a smaller knife hidden in the handle of the larger one. With no words between them and a resigned look on his face, West watches the rat shake its head pleadingly as he urges it to slice its own belly open. With melodramatic piano music playing underneath, the mini-‘Ye gets its own dramatic death scene, as a teary-eyed West watches in guilty silence.

The sight of West woozily walking through the club and indulging in his trademark blustery talk was filmed nearly a year before his bum rush of Taylor Swift at the VMAs, a night when he was photographed swigging from a bottle of cognac. Seeing it now, along with the heavily symbolic birth/ death scene at the end is a bit disorienting, but also par for the course for the envelope-pushing Jonze, who always shies away from the obvious image. In lampooning West’s self-indulgent public persona, Jonze makes Kanye a more sympathetic character, on film at least, helping the rapper to rid himself of whatever demon is inside him in a cathartic, moving and powerful scene.

By Gil Kaufman