watch kenzo's powerful new campaign film by ‘lemonade’ director kahlil joseph

'Music is My Mistress' stars activists, musicians and award winning actors in an "unfolding drama across cultures, space, and time."

by Jane Helpern
22 February 2017, 1:30am

Following an intriguing trailer and lengthy wait, Kenzo have released the fourth in their series of exceptional campaign films. Directed by Kahlil Joseph, the mind behind Beyoncé's Lemonade, Music is My Mistress is a twelve-minute movie that eschews linear narrative in favour of divergent glimpses into a bigger story. Starring activist Jesse Williams, emerging musical talent Kelsey Lu and Diana Ross's daughter and Golden Globe winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross, the film is an amalgamation of rhythms, visions, and moods, driven always by music. 

Williams, perhaps best known for his powerful speech addressing racial injustice at last year's BET awards, plays a determined music manager scouring the streets of downtown Los Angeles for Gamma, the elusive recording artist portrayed by Ishmael Butler, one half of real-life hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces. With the equally ethereal celllist Kelsey Lu by his side, Gamma evades his would-be handler's grip. Somewhere along this well-intended fool's errand, Williams's character arrives at a palatial safehouse belonging to a lionized African princess played by Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross. There, his iPhone is confiscated and swapped for a throwaway burner. After three days of waiting, the enigmatic artist never shows.

Alive and pulsating, the film's true protagonist, and antagonist, is music. It's a shapeshifting, ever-changing, all-consuming entity which was equally represented at the premiere party, where Kelsey Lu and Ish entertained guests. For the outdoor screening, partygoers (including Sasha Lane, Amandla Stenberg, and Alia Shawkat) huddled around a fire-pit or lounged on an eclectic collection of pillows, poufs, and blankets strewn across the museum grounds.

Amandla Stenberg. Image courtesy of Kenzo.

While the premiere was undoubtedly a fashion event, it was no ordinary fashion party. The unexpected location, the brainchild of late artist Noah Davis and his wife artist Karin Davis, is a free contemporary museum and cultural institution consciously created in the working class residential neighborhood of Arlington Heights as proud black space. Only a few miles away from Hollywood (the setting of last year's Kenzo premiere), but conceptually a far cry away, the event, like the film, sent a clear message of unrestricted access to art for all.

Sasha Lane. Image courtesy of Kenzo.

Speaking to Humberto Leon at the film's premiere of the decision to cast outspoken actors and activists to front their spring/summer 17 campaign, the designer explained, "We have been very clear since day one of Kenzo that our aim is to live in the moment and that yes, Kenzo is a big company, an original Maison in Paris, but it is being directed by two people who have an opinion on life...It is important that we can communicate, like having a conversation with our friends, through all our collections, shows, ad campaigns and films. We have taken a stance every season, sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's just the truth."


Photography via Kenzo Instagram

Kahlil Joseph
Kelsey Lu
Jesse Williams
Tracee Ellis Ross
Music is my mistress
spring/summer 17