All the Movie References in Drake’s New Short Film Jungle, Explained


It’s been obvious since 2010, when he rhymed “kosher” with “Ebert and Roeper,” that Drake is a cinephile. Indeed, Nothing Was the Same positively bristles with movie references, from Memento to Martin Scorsese — perhaps inspired by his time on Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he worked under the great Bruce McDonald (and was billed as Aubrey Graham). This morning, when Drake unveiled Jungle, a fourteen-minute short film he made alongside director Karim Huu Do and Capote cinematographer Adam Kimmel, its arthouse influences came as no surprise. Here we trace some of the short’s auteur inspirations.

Eyes Wide Shut (Dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Drake’s debt to Stanley Kubrick has been apparent in the grandeur of his compositions for many years, but it’s here that he has finally found occasion to repay the influence with homage. And he wastes no time in doing so: It’s in Jungle‘s opening shot that Drake evokes Tom Cruise’s brooding late-night drive in Eyes Wide Shut, doubtless meant to bring that film’s sexual frustrations searingly to mind.

Miami Vice (Dir. Michael Mann)

It was in the neon-streaked video for “Hold On, We’re Going Home” that Drake first made known his admiration for director Michael Mann, casting himself in a short-form riff on 2006’s Miami Vice. Intriguing, then, that an early shot in Jungle should so potently recall Mann’s earlier TV series, adopting one of its pilot’s best-known images.

Koyaanisqatsi (Dir. Godfrey Reggio)

Some critics have found Jungle‘s mid-film detour into avant-garde collage confounding, and it’s true that the juxtaposition of home movies and archival footage is difficult to parse. But it seems clear that a shot of a building collapsing in Toronto — the controlled demolition of 111 Elizabeth Street in Old Chinatown — is intended to reference Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, which seizes upon the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe buildings with similarly mournful vigor.

Shame (Dir. Steve McQueen)

That Drake should find much to relate to in Shame, director Steve McQueen’s meditation on sex addiction and the modern condition, is hardly surprising given his music’s fixation on similar themes. Here he borrows a key image from the film to illustrate in shorthand a bevy of complex emotions, a strategy very much in keeping with McQueen’s rigorous formalism.

To the Wonder (Dir. Terrence Malick)

The chief characteristic of Jungle may be its interiority, but this is precisely why its brief foray into the life of a stranger is so affecting — it’s a respite from Drake’s personal anguish, cast in relief. But whatever the thematic reasoning, the formal approach is clear: Here he cites the singular Terrence Malick, taking the distinctive style of the very rural To the Wonder and applying it to a more urban milieu.

Twin Peaks (Dir. David Lynch)

Toward the end of Jungle, Drake finds himself descending into a cavernous nightclub in deep, pulsating red — an obvious homage to the iconic Red Room at the heart of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Drake has often been fascinated by the subconscious, and here he explores it with an uncommon, almost dreamlike candor.

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