The internet is abuzz about Kanye’s short film/music video “Runaway” a visual tour de force that tells the story of a Pheonix and is a not so subtle metaphor for Kanye’s return to the spotlight. Kanye says he was influenced by directors like George Lucas, Felini, Kubrik and that he wanted to create a landscape for the tracks that normally wouldn’t see the light of day in terms of a music video production. With breathtaking costumes, picturesque sets, CGI it’s got it all. Props to the costume design of Phillip Lim & Martin Izqueirdo, the art director Vanessa Beecroft, and the cinematographer Kyle Kibbe. They did Yeoman’s work on this project. Kanye is credited as a “Director” and legendary Hip Hop music video director Hype Williams is credited as a writer. As a filmmaker myself I am always leery of artist throwing their weight around to don the directors cap. A common practice in the music video world where the label often kowtows to the artist’s every whim. However in this film I do see Kanye’s heavy hand at work.
This wouldn’t be a Kanye video if it didn’t have some controversy just for controversy’s sake. As in a scene where whites play a subservient role to blacks. This video however brilliant visually has allot of glaring holes technically that I chalk up to Kanye’s inexperience as a director. Take for example the main dinning sequence where he performs Lets Give a Toast to the Douchebags. The camera cranes up and down incessantly falling in love with it’s own creation. I became so aware of the camera moves that I started to notice that the dancers were strenuously trying to hold their stances. This broke the illusion for me. I am a big believer in always keeping the audience wanting more. Instead I found myself glancing at the timeline. Knowing when to take the brush off the canvas is a discipline Kanye lacks as a filmmaker.
I loved the dance sequence even if the Hip Hop influence in the solo performances were a bit much. The acting in this video was a major distraction and clearly ran a far second to the visuals. Victoria Secret model Selita Ebanks who plays the Pheonix does a decent job, however the supporting cast and Kanye himself were stiff and unconvincing in the few lines that they had to deliver. These kind of oversights can be expected on a project where a strong willed director with a strong vision is surrounded by yes-men.
In the end Runaway is unlike anything I have ever seen in the music video realm and I would watch this video again and again however self indulgent and narcissistic it is. However I think that the distinction between a music video and a film needs to be made here. Without these distinctions artist turned directors will never become disciplined enough to bring out the true potential their very unique ideas can offer us.