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Ballet and hip hop mesh perfectly in Kanye West’s short-film “Runaway.”
West debuted his directorial and acting debut to audiences Saturday as an accompaniment to his upcoming album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
As if it wasn’t hard enough to understand what is going on in the mind of West, he takes the audience on a journey through his dream world. His fantasy documents a phoenix, played by supermodel Selita Ebanks, crashing down to earth to become the troubled rap star’s girlfriend.
West surprisingly holds his own as an actor and, while some transitions are difficult to follow, he does a nice job bringing his vision together.
He warns his girlfriend, “First rule in this world baby, don’t pay attention to anything you see in the news.” He then watches the phoenix frolic with sheep and bunnies. Presumably, this is how West is confronting his demons with Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs and labeling his career as one full of innocent intentions.
The scenes shift to West, nearly assaulting a drum machine to remix his single “Power.” Ebanks is stunningly graceful as she dances alongside, giving West the idea that their relationship can thrive in this cruel, misunderstanding world.
The new couple enjoys a Michael Jackson tribute parade, while a Rihanna sing-along chorus plays in the background with “All of the Lights.” Afterward, West and Ebanks attend a dinner where the phoenix obviously isn’t fitting in.
West expresses his frustrations by jumping on an out-of-tune piano as he sings the the film’s title track accompanied by a troupe of ballerinas. This beautifully choreographed scene is easily the film’s standout because of the risk taken by West.
No serious rapper is supposed to like ballet, not if they want to keep their pretentious, tough image. West is constantly pushing what is “supposed” to happen in hip-hop culture and his innovation is what makes this scene, and the film in general, work. He makes ballet more relevant in hip hop music than oversized white T’s and bling. Bringing sophistication to this genre alone makes West’s film revolutionary.
Things go awry in his relationship with the phoenix and she must burn in order to return back to her home. Scenes of apocalyptic chaos ensue as fire and the phoenix fly across the night sky.
West’s “Lost in the World” captures the melancholy mood of losing the only important thing left in this world. He sprints desperately, chasing his love as fast as anyone ever has in designer loafers.
West has done the impossible with “Runaway.” He makes audiences care about him again. For no reason should he still have a place in popular culture, as he admittedly “threw a Molotov Cocktail on his career last year.”
When West is chasing his phoenix, or rather his illustrious lost career, one wonders if he’ll ever be able to catch it again.
“Runaway” doesn’t have to be good or bad, it just has to challenge the existing. The 35-minute short film is relevant because it defies the standard of what a music video should be and in the process has created a new standard.
“Runaway” is not as important as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video or Prince’s “Purple Rain,” but West has, like it or not, stepped into a similar role as the two pop icons as a connoisseur of art for our generation.
At worst, the film is a preview of nine tracks on his upcoming album due on Nov. 22. At its best, “Runaway” is a film meticulously focused on beautiful imagery that helps define our culture.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Macaluso at Ben.email@example.com.