Kanye West Ripped Me Off

Acclaimed filmmaker Gaspar Noé on how Kanye West plagiarized the opening credits sequence from his film Enter the Void for his music video to “All of the Lights.”

Gaspar Noé’s hallucinogenic mindfuck of a film, Enter the Void, almost ended his career.Set in Tokyo and inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead and DMT tripping, the movie is a re-creation of the afterlife—shown from the perspective of a slain American drug dealer. Though critically acclaimed, Noé’s feature grossed a paltry $754K worldwide against a $16 million budget. It’s one of the principal reasons why it took the Franco-Argentinean years to raise the financing for his excellent follow-up Love, in theaters now.

“It did not make money,” Noé told me. “The producers lost some money on the movie, but it got a lot of attention. Now, maybe it’s a drug classic—but that doesn’t help to find investors on a movie which may have problems with censors in many countries.”

Indeed, Enter the Void has emerged as something of a “drug classic.” The film was Ryan Gosling’s pick for the Best Movie of 2010, and several American directors—including Gosling (Lost River), Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers), and Rihanna (“Bitch Better Have My Money”) have enlisted the services of Void’s gifted cinematographer Benoît Debie, who did such a fine job of capturing Tokyo in all its surreal neon splendor.

One of Void’s most memorable sequences was its opening credits—an onslaught of typographical flashes, which each cast and crew member given their own dazzling typeface, set to LFO’s “Freak.” Quentin Tarantino called it “Hands down best credit scene of the year… Maybe the best credit scene of the decade. One of the greatest in cinema history.”

So naturally, fans of Noé’s film were stunned when the music video for Kanye West’s single “All of the Lights,” directed by acclaimed hip-hop video helmer Hype Williams, was released in early 2011 and featured almost the exact same title sequence—twice, both at the beginning and end of the video.

A critical fan even created this side-by-side video of the two sequences so you can see for yourself:

Designer Tom Kan, who helped Noé create the Enter the Void titles, called it “plagiarism.” But Noé has been silent on the matter—until now.

When I ask him if he was surprised when Kanye West copied his title sequence, he becomes a bit irritated, gruffly replying, “Yeah,” before taking a swig of his Bloody Mary. He acknowledged that he was not consulted by West or Williams about it, instead learning of its existence when it hit YouTube.

“And the director [Hype Williams] was someone else who ripped off the titles to my movie,” he said. “I was more shocked by the fact that that guy who copied all the typography of my titles put his name in it—Hype Williams—when you never usually see a director’s name in a music video. He was putting his name on it over and over! It was so weird that he was not only copying it, but adding his name into the credits over and over again.”

This isn’t the first time Kanye West’s been accused of using someone else’s work without giving proper credit. And it’s certainly not the first time anyone’s borrowed generously from Noé’s oeuvre—as a cursory glance at films like Spring Breakers or Only God Forgives will attest.

“The truth is that when you put something out there, if you put any idea out there that’s kind of flashy, you have many, many people that are going to be copying it,” said Noé of the titles. “This happens whether you do movies, paintings, or music.”