La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse Review

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AKA: The Black House: The Gift and the Curse, La Maison Noir, The Black House, La Maison Noir (long-form music video)

Genre: Experimental/Supernatural
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: Red Bull Music
/Roya Records
Origin: South Africa/Namibia
Running Time: 18 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: 12+
Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: This is a very creative project and I’d say fans of African music and avant-pop should dig it. If I really wanted to be a bit trollzy, I’d say fans of The Lion’s Share and Kimba the White Lion are going to LOVE this long-form music video for obvious reasons.

Notes:
-This review reflects the Extended edition.

-La Maison Noir: The Gift and the Curse is streaming on YouTube.

-You can purchase the La Maison Noir EP at Petite Noir’s Bandcamp. Please support this artist.

Fun Facts:

-Petite Noir is the moniker of the South African musician of Congolese and Angolan descent named Yannick Illunga. He was born in Brussels, Belgium, but lived in multiple countries before settling in Cape Town. Petite Noir has released two EPs (this video is based on La Maison Noir, his most recent work) and one full length album at the time of this review.

-La Maison Noir was filmed across the Namib Desert which is one of the biggest African deserts next to the Sahara that spreads to both South Africa and Namibia.

-The song Beach features Detroit-based rapper Danny Brown. In addition to his discography, he has appeared in Lucas Bros. Moving Company and he did the theme song to the show Fresh Off the Boat.

-Controversy Alert/Hilarious in Hindsight: Mickey Mouse, you just couldn’t resist stealing more things for one of your biggest film franchises in the 90s, right? La Maison Noir trended this year once people saw eerie similarities between this video and Beyonce’s music video for “Spirit” for The Lion King (2019). Here’s a link containing information and pictures of both videos. Also, there’s one hilarious in hindsight aspect when you consider this video has a subtitle of “The Gift and the Curse” while the ex-Destiny’s Child member’s vanity project/companion soundtrack to the biggest piece of film plagiarism of all time is subtitled as “The Gift”. Come on, Queen Bey and Disney. It’s as if they said “Sorry, not sorry”. See what I did there?


Ladies and gentlemen. This is the final review on Iridium Eye not just for the year, but for the entire decade. The next posts with be ushered in once 2020 shows up. I hope you all have a blessed new year and a new decade once that happens. I didn’t want to leave just one review hanging for the end of the 10s. The thing is I really wanted to diversify my reviews by including more musical short films and movies. Sure, I’ve covered multiple music documentaries, a musical (Sita Sings the Blues), and a long-form music video (Interstella 5555), but I think another one would be very nice. Unlike Interstella, this one is a live action short film that doubles as a long-form music video for an EP. Yes, there’s one obvious reason why I wanted to talk about this one and we’ll get to that reason later even if you can probably guess what it is from the fun facts section.

Let’s check out this black house from this experimental musician from the cradle of civilization.

La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse is the long-form music video interpretation of Petite Noir’s latest EP. The narrative is an abstract representation of the elements of life while also shedding light on Petite Noir’s own life and even making parallels to various topics in Africa. The musician narrates this story while also promoting the rise of “noirwave” which is what he calls the genre of music he creates. The stages of birth, life, death, and rebirth are captured throughout the length of this short film.

The first time I heard about Petite Noir was from a Bandcamp blog article last year, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to his music or watch this video until just a few months ago (I’ll get to that reason why later). The level of creativity from both the music and visuals are astounding. Petite Noir incorporates so many elements of experimental pop music, African rhythms, hip hop, electronica, R&B, and chillwave among other influences in one unique package. I can think of no one who sounds like him which is a huge plus. The cinematography shows the vast nature of the Namib Desert with cinematic quality to rival so many Hollywood directors. It was awesome seeing the traditional costumes, various effects near the final act of the film, and the symbolism of various objects. During the Blame Fire segment (the initial part of the video), I thought the imagery of burning computers and Vs was brilliant. I saw that as a metaphor for getting rid of mainstream media lies which is amazing especially with how much Africa has been lied about for generations on end. The recurring circle imagery was fascinating like how it changes colors over time and how it disappears during Hanoii AKA the Death sequence in the film. Petite Noir narrating the project was dramatic enough to get the point, but never distracting. At times it was a nice breather in between the different songs, so if anyone isn’t a fan of sung-through musicals, then this is for you if that’s your thing. Even such simple lyrics of “Pow pow pow pow!” from the second song convey deep meaning with the imagery of the soldier uniforms and the traditional African outfits as it represents fighting for the pride of one’s culture.

Traditional African costumes and garb? A music video that takes place in the desert? Narrative about a cycle of life of sorts?

I know I’m reusing a joke from my main Ospreyshire blog when I first talked about this issue, but this is needed here. Sing this with me now: CAAAAAAAAN YOU FEEEEEEL THE HEIST TONIIIIIIIIGHT?

Disney, thank you for proving me right that you have a bunch of artistic and cultural thieves in your ranks especially when it comes to that freaking film franchise! Let’s recap everything The Lion King stole from so far for those who aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about.

Kimba the White Lion/Jungle Emperor Leo (Japan)

-The “Hakuna Matata” trademark (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC)

-“Mbube” by Solomon Linda (the first time they stole from South Africa with that plagiarized song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” [See my review of The Lion’s Share for more info])

Is there no shame in the House of Mouse? This is beyond infuriating with how much Disney has gotten away with when it comes to that overrated movie that I used to like when I was a kid. Beyonce should really know better when it comes to stealing from other cultures and shame on her for putting her daughter Blue Ivy in the “Spirit” video. No, just because you got a bunch of African musicians (Why, Salatiel? WHY?!) for your ego-trip of a companion soundtrack, it doesn’t give you a free pass to plagiarize imagery from another African’s video project. Besides, she hasn’t done enough for the black community worldwide (YEAH, I SAID IT!). Seriously, check out that link above and tell me no one knew about this. It’s not like the original came out decades prior to this excuse of a creation like the “Mbube” song or Kimba where both existed before the internet. This came out LAST YEAR, so that’s stupid on anyone’s part. Some of the scenes are so obviously cut and pasted much like the famous “cloud spirit” scene from the Kimba manga or even the scene of Caesar’s ghost consoling Kimba in the night sky for comparison. As much as I want to bash the new Nala as hard as the blogosphere and professional critics have been bashing The Lion King (2019), she shouldn’t get all of the blame for this controversy. The director Jake Nava needs to get slagged off since he was in charge of that particular video. Jon Favreau needs some of the blame since this directly ties into his arrogant attempt to do a “live action” remake (I use that term loosely) of a movie with literally no human characters in it. Disney is at the top, so they deserve to be called out. I’m sick of them misrepresenting and bastardizing African elements in their animated canon. No, just because that company has made movies with African human characters outside of that canon with Queen of Katwe or if we count Marvel movies Black Panther, doesn’t give them a free pass for some hurtful things, thievery, racism, and dare I say neo-colonial crap. I hate how selective that company is when it comes to which cultures get respected or not and if you want to see a stark contrast, then look at how respectful the company was with the Polynesian community with Lilo & Stitch and Moana. Why do Lion King fans keep defending this nonsense? If Dreamworks or Warner Brothers did anything like this, you know everyone would freak out. I’m infuriated that they would just copy things without crediting a work that was actually made by an African, so it gets a sense of authenticity that even Kimba the White Lion falls short in that regard. This is beyond unbelievable. I hope Petite Noir sues them all and wins. How would you all feel if an African artist decided to rip off someone from Europe or America and got away with it? Exactly. Shoot, if anyone ripped off Beyonce, then the whole Beyhive would swarm against whoever did so!

Check out some of the comments and a screen cap of the YouTube sidebar. Keep in mind I haven’t watched any Beyonce videos on my computer ever while on that site.
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Okay, the rant here is over and I hope I made my points here.

La Maison Noir is a brilliant video, but there are some shortcomings. The biggest one for me was that it doesn’t use all the songs from the EP. I would’ve loved to have seen a visual interpretation of “Blowing Up the Congo” since it’s a powerful song that rallies against the exploitation of the DRC and is a great anti-colonial anthem. Not to mention Saul William’s spoken word segment is awesome, too. I thought there should’ve been extra time since I was so immersed with the visuals going along with the music. While the life stage aspect was certainly creative in it’s presentation, I wished the imagery didn’t involve a circle because you know a bunch of idiots are going to reference the most obvious theme song involving that aforementioned copycat movie (Oh, like YOU weren’t thinking it especially after my obligatory rant? No, Petite Noir’s talking voice doesn’t sound like James Earl Jones since he clearly has a different accent!). I know there were the traditional outfits, but I wished there wasn’t the images of the white loin cloths. That wasn’t a good fashion choice even if it was to add to the authentic nature briefly.

Petite Noir’s long form video was a wonderful watch and worth all eighteen minutes and then some. The musicality was original and just spot on. The authentically African aesthetics and environment were nice touches as it only could’ve come from someone like him. I wish it could’ve used all the songs from the EP instead of most of them and some of the metaphors could’ve been less subtle. If I saw this last year, I might have given this an eight or a nine. Since The Lion King ripped off La Maison Noir, that makes me want to give it the highest possible score. Hey, at least I’m honest about it and I will defend those that were plagiarized whenever I can. If you don’t believe me, then just read any of my reviews involving the Kimba/JEL series, Paprika (ironic since Petite Noir namedrops Inception in a lyric), The Lion’s Share, and Battle Royale. Of all the things that Disney ripped off with that franchise, I will say Petite Noir’s video is my favorite when it comes to what I call The Lion King Plagiarism Trifecta (patent pending). Strongly recommended.

The rise of the Noirwave is infinite!




Adjustable Rating System:

Subtract 1-3 points if you’re part of the Beyhive or a hardcore Lion King fan.
Subtract 1 point if you prefer music to be more straightforward.

Pros:
-Amazing and original music
-Cinematic visuals and cinematography
-Some great metaphors involving honoring the culture and fighting against mainstream lies

Cons:

-The entirety of the La Maison Noir EP isn’t there
-Life stage imagery gets overt and fodder for an obvious TLK joke
-The brief loin cloth images

Final Score: 10/10 points

Content Warning: La Maison Noir might get a PG or PG-13. There’s abstract war and military imagery in one section of the video. There’s some partial nudity, but it’s all censored. There is a swear word in “Blame Fire” and the biggest aspect would be Danny Brown’s guest verse where he swears a bit and makes references to Xanax and uses the word Jamaica as slang for weed in the context of one line.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse is property of Petite Noir, Red Bull Music, and Roya Music. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Red Bull Music.

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