Kanye West has been threatening to drop his short film “Runaway” before his new album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” hits stores November 22nd, and here it is. “Runaway” follows the story of Mr. West, a scantly-clad phoenix (Selita Ebanks) that falls from the sky and the saddest explosions ever to grace the small screen. Unleashed onto YouTube over the weekend (you can find the curses-and-all cut right here), West’s first short film stands to prove the man demands respect as an artist; there’s barely a shred of subtlety to the damn thing and the plot is gaunt, and your only bits of cryptic info are handed to you by a stone-faced West, who deadpans to the phoenix, “First rule in this world, baby, don’t pay attention to anything you see in the news.”
Now, don’t get us wrong, watching a comet collide with West’s sleek sports car or the rapper and the phoenix jamming to a remix of “Power” that West beats out of an MPC is surprisingly less pretentious than it could have been, but on the whole, the short is laborious, the pacing and symbolism obvious and West’s impulse to rely on slow-mo while he contemplates theatrical gestures a bit painful. The soundtrack that powers the film, comprised of the rapper’s recent annual Friday releases and snips of work featured on his fifth album, is familiarly dramatic but also easy on the ears.
Still, the cinematography (by frequent documentary DP Kyle Kibbe) and shot composition is very, very impressive and while the overarching theme is simply that people often turn their backs on creatures strange but beautiful, its West’s take on it that has a resounding pulse of originality to it. The rapper/producer and now film director has gone a long way from cranking out memorable beats to becoming a director and in the midst of all the controversy he aims to put behind him, “Runaway” is sure to incite haters as well as draw the spotlight back to West in an effort to determine whether this film is just a lark or something that digs deeper at the MC’s soul. Also, there is a crimson-bathed paradise with a giant Michael Jackson tribute head. Okay, then. See it for yourself below. — Mark Zhuravsky