Kanye West and ‘Runaway’ music film review

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

From having an album cover being banned to making a statement of immense proprtions (if deemed so by any), Kanye West never ceases to escape the spotlight.

Kanye West debuted his long-form music film Runaway on Saturday night. It was a dreamy mini-movie with lovely, light imagery and a heavy message — roughly speaking, people aren’t open-minded; they don’t accept what they don’t immediately understand. Take it as a metaphor for how West feels about the acceptance of not necessarily his music, but his public behavior (epitomized by the West-Taylor Swift VMA moment), and you probably wouldn’t be wrong.

Acoording to the rapper during the screening of the movie @ Bafta in London a few weeks back, since the release of  Late Registration, he’s always wanted to have what he called a visual reference. Something people can look back to and with the passing of the great Michael Jackson, Kanye feels “convicted” to present art in the proper way.  An extra responsibility to create and make people more inspired.

He felt it was his responsibility to “Bring real culture to popular culture”.The rapper went on to expand on the above quote and told a captive audience about the art world vs. the commercial world. Creativity is championed in the art world less than the commercial world. Kanye wants to merge that art world culture into the mainstream.

It told the story of a phoenix (played by model Selita Ebanks) who falls to Earth in front of West’s car. West, playing a version of himself, tried to introduce her to a world that mystified her, and was mystified by her.

One of the first images you see is of a determined and running Kanye West. The first voice you hear is of Nicki Minaj who narrates the opening in a British accent.

Kanye driving his fancy sports comes to a halt when a fireball/comet from the sky hits the ground. From this fireball, we see Selita Ebanks  as The Phoenix. There’s a moment where the phoenix is watching TV and not knowing what it is.It’s apparent that the innocence displayed by the phoenix is representative of the art world.

Yeezy’s first line, “first rule baby, don’t pay attention to what you see in the news” seemingly becomes the connecting point  between the art world and the commercial world.

The West-directed Runaway used a heavily-saturated color palette; bright oranges, fiery reds, and lush forest-greens dominated. He lingered over his imagery, frequently slowing down the motion for us to observe the phoenix’s most causal gestures. In one bravura sequence, he included a red-dressed marching band that pulled along a giant papier-mache bust of Michael Jackson in its wake.

The focal point of the movie is the dinner scene. A white table, everyone dressed in white and Kanye arrives with the Phoenix. Someone at the table says “do you know she’s a bird?” and Kanye replies that he’s never noticed that. That was a statement made against discrimination. He treated the phoenix like anyone else and artists shouldn’t be discriminated against, but rather championed.

Runaway is performed at this point. Kanye playing on a white paino. Ballet dancers dressed in black dance to the music. The ballet dancing is extensive. But the mood changes after a piece of food is brought to the table with similar feathers to that of the phoenix. This in turn scares the bird who is now convinced that in order to return to her world, she must be burnt. Late in Runaway, the phoenix speaks: “You know what I hate about your world? Anything that is different you try to change, you try to tear it down.” West’s visual and musical sophistication was constantly contrasted with images of the phoenix’s playful innocence, until she finally burst into flames and ascended back “to my world,” as she put it after a  night of passion with Kanye, leaving West’s character desperate, running down the road after her, left alone.

West has said that Runaway contains nine songs from his forthcoming album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and supplies “visuals for all these songs that deserve videos.”

It should be noted that Kanye West’s acting skills are below par (in comparison to his musical abilities) and certain scenes seem out of place.

In an interview that aired immediately after Runaway, West referred to Fellini and Kubrick as influences, and the languidly assured tracking shots and framing in some scenes bore out those influences. He also said the phoenix’s crash paralleled the “crash of my career.” Sometimes it’s best for an artist to just let the work speak for itself.

Given how controversial West’s every artistic gesture seems to have become, I have a feeling we’ll be in for a round of dismissals of Runaway as a pretentious piece. Instead, it deserves to be seen as a carefully modulated art-film made by a man on a mission. One seeking desperately to redeem his image. Did he succeed in achieving that?! I wonder!

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