Critically-acclaimed director Ana Lily Amirpour of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night fame and the iconic Karen O of legendary New York rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs have joined forces to create “Yo! My Saint“, a dazzling production combining the worlds of film, music, and fashion for Kenzo’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection.
The film depicts a fashion photographer (Alex Zhang Hungtai) haunted and torn between his love for a previous muse (Jessica Henwick, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Iron Fist) and a current one (Kiko Mizuhara, Norwegian Wood), with Hungtai’s and Henwick’s characters, in most heart-breaking, dramatic fashion, singing along to the brooding and yet powerfully explosive Karen O track featuring Michael Kiwanuka’s ever-soulful, swooning vocals.
Deemed a ‘project’ and ‘not just a song, or a film, or clothes’ by its creators, “Yo! My Saint” embodies the bold, pioneering, and experimental qualities of the two inspirations behind Kenzo’s vibrant, simultaneously poppy and organic SS18 collection: influential electronic/synth-pop musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and iconic model Sayoko Yamaguchi, both highly-respected and lauded figures in their respective fields and well-known for their creativity and daring to innovate.
Fittingly, aesthetics – both visual and auditory – are front-and-center in the production, and are intrinsically-linked by an ‘underlying theme of muses’:
Linking them altogether is the underlying theme of muses – honoring, celebrating, and re-imagining the instigators and inspirations of creativity. – kenzo.com
Visually, it’s a treat. Bright, intense palettes and gorgeous clothes show off the best of the Kenzo SS18 collection: Colours flawlessly contrast and complement each other, creating a sense of elegant chaos. Plus, the marriage of old-school and modern sensibilities create an endearing charm to the production; campy karaoke screens that seem to have jumped straight out of the 80s and old-fashioned Nikon cameras are juxtaposed with very-2018 smartphone pings and obviously-Photoshopped giant billboards.
All this is topped off by the excellent music: Karen O (who has a cameo in the film) proves to be just as raw and intense as she’s ever been. Her vocals and heart-rending lyrics seem to have been ripped straight out of her heart–perhaps a nod to her Fever to Tell days–and blend oh-so-well with Kiwanuka’s deep, mournful baritone. There’s also a point towards the end of the song when the two sing together, not so much as a duet but almost as enemies, as competitors, reflecting the intensity of the two characters who ‘sing’ their song. The performance is intense, almost theatrical, and ends just how you would want it to end: with a slow-burn, elegiac descent into longing. (“Yo! My Saint” is definitely up there with those ‘heartbreak’ songs you’d sing whilst completely drunk at a karaoke; no wonder that was the setting chosen at the end of the visual.)
...It just sparked this other side of my imagination, which is the Asian melodrama that’s within me. For the music, I immediately wanted to do melodramatic and romantic and with lots of yearning and high stakes – all that good stuff that’s in any Korean soap opera. — Karen O, kenzo.com
Something about Amirpour’s direction, though, also (subtly) screams Wong Kar-Wai, like something that was cut straight out of Chungking Express or In the Mood for Love. Crisp cinematography and intimate close-ups reveal a diverse spectrum of emotions, as well as Amirpour’s placement of seemingly mundane human interactions, like the resting of one’s head on someone’s shoulder at a karaoke, making for that hopelessly romantic ‘we’ve all been there before’ feeling. Every shot is artfully directed, coordinated, and wonderfully juxtaposed by the feisty, passionate characters simmering with desire in the story.
“Yo! My Saint” is a glorious, ambitious successor and homage to its inspirations, but also holds its own as a celebration and showcase of some of today’s most talented and trailblazing creators and performers, especially those of Asian descent. It no doubt takes such cues of celebration from the all-Asian runway of models from Kenzo’s SS18 show. Moreover, it’s a wonderful collaboration between two talented and acclaimed women creators, Amirpour and Karen O–a refreshing, welcome union given how male-dominated the music and film industries typically are.
(oh, and for all the Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans: don’t forget to find the Yeah Yeah Yeahs easter egg!)