Travis Scott's New Film Feels Like a Visual Ode to Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet'

Circus Maximus, the new theatrical release film accompanying Travis Scott’s fourth album Utopia, might just be effective Barbenheimer counterprogramming. Announced just days before the album’s July 28 release and playing in AMC theaters nationwide, the 75-minute project is engaging, as Scott shares directorial credit with several visionary filmmakers, including Harmony Korine, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Kahlil Joseph, but looking at it for much beyond visual spectacle feels like the wrong exercise. It’s a tone poem, the kind of experimental thing we never get in theaters anymore…albeit one with Nike product placement.

As with much of Scott’s work, the level of polish on Circus Maximus, and the handful of Utopia tracks included, is undeniably impressive. Everything looks and sounds great, and it’s a treat to hear these songs on theatrical speakers. At times, Scott’s intense professionalism feels at odds with his wildman persona, particularly as he spends time here talking about keeping the “rage” going, and rebuking questions about whether his energy level is flagging. There has always been a dissonance between Travis Scott, the one-man billion dollar industry, and Travis Scott, the frenetic live performer who used to get arrested for inciting “riot[s]” at his early shows. Circus Maximus doesn’t do much to reconcile those two sides, opting to preserve a cryptic sense of mystery around its A-list star.

Circus Maximus is less a concert film and more clearly indebted to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which featured a pedestrian Travis song called “The Plan” that Nolan himself dubbed “the final piece of a yearlong puzzle.” Like Tenet, Circus Maximus looks incredible, with gorgeous scenes shot in Nigeria and a technically impressive set piece revolving around castell, the Catalan human tower sport. But Circus Maximus suffers from similar problems of narrative opacity as Nolan’s $200 million action mindbender.

Most of the movie’s actual dialogue comes from a kind of therapy session between Scott and Rick Rubin. (It’s one of those moments where you see two celebrities together and have absolutely no idea what temperature it is, with Scott clad in multiple layers and a massive leather coat, and Rubin reclining in a t-shirt and shorts.) There’s a real beauty to these shots–they recall Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal chess match–but the conversation doesn’t give us much meaningful insight about Scott’s psyche in the five years since Astroworld or a terribly clear picture of what Utopia means to him.

“It’s not gonna be all pretty, it’s not gonna be all non-confrontational…it’s the act of problem solving. in order to reach utopia it has to be handed in, it’s the way of transferring energy from one person to another without it being broken,” Scott tells Rubin. “I’m trying to create that circle of us transferring the energies.”

Back in 2021, Scott told L’Officiel that some of his favorite movies were No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Sixteen Candles. But beyond Nolan, Circus Maximus seems most informed by Denis Villeneuve. Scott’s film even begins with an alien encounter deeply reminiscent of Arrival, and the eerie, futuristic vistas featured here recall Villeneuve’s Dune and Blade Runner 2049. There’s an intense seriousness to much of Circus Maximus, though it was hard to stay entirely straight-faced when my screening began with a trollish kid yelling “Carti better!” to a mix of laughs and groans.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top