Of all the absurdities in “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” the one that takes the cake comes in the homestretch, long after the film’s revealed itself to be both a face-warping concert movie and a moving, unexpectedly transparent feat of self-portraiture, after the screen’s gone black and the speakers silent during her performance of “Alien Superstar” (which happened for about 10 minutes on the tour’s Phoenix stop) and the placid voices at “Renaissance” mission control sound concerned, after we’ve beheld one costuming outrage chase another, after we’ve witnessed technicians inform her that something’s impossible and she informs them that she’s looked the problem up and that, indeed, it is possible. (“Eventually, they realize this bitch will not give up,” she says, backstage, to the camera.)
After all of that and about two and a half hours more, out comes the most outrageous costume of the evening. The bee. It’s by Thierry Mugler and lands somewhere between bathing suit and “Barbarella,” an exoskeleton breastplate in yellow and black, with black thigh-high boots. That’s not what kills me though, not really. It’s the matching helmet and yellow visor that cover the top half of her face. The helmet’s got horns that taper into antennae, and they swing, at about waist level. She’s put this thing on for her partisans in the Beyhive.
That’s not even the deadliest thing about the costume, which, yes, on its own is a trip. It’s that at some point during this passage, a local TV news desk appears onstage. Its station call letters feature no vowels yet remain unprintable nonetheless. And from behind that desk, this titan of song, movement and facial expression, this mother of three and daughter of Tina and Matthew Knowles, this creature of Houston and global inspiration who has elected officials asking themselves “What would Beyoncé do?” — she is dressed like a bug, a bug who stings, in order to do the news, which, in the film, is simply this: “America? America has a problem,” the title of the bottom-bumping Miami bass jam that doubles as the wickedest joke on the “Renaissance” album. Here, in a film written, directed, produced by and starring Beyoncé, it’s camp. Divine camp.