Overlooked Film of the Week-#69
I haven’t had a chance to discuss any short films on this blog so far, so I felt today would be a good time. I suppose I should say that this is the first time I have discussed a short musical film on this blog. Kanye West is one of those stars where I may find his personal life questionable; I think his music is utterly amazing. Yeah, I may not be Taylor Swift’s biggest admirer, but what West did at the MTV Video Music Awards a few years back was disgusting. But when it comes to his music, none of that matters to me. West is always pushing himself as an artist, and his 2010 album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is one of the best mainstream albums of the last five years. It has been argued that the hit from West’s 2010 album, “Runaway” was West’s new rise to fame and he created a 30-minute short film based on the song.
Kanye West plays Griffin, a rich drifter who we see running from a fire with his shirt undone as the film begins. Then as West’s song “Dark Fantasy” begins to play, we see a massive fireball headed towards Earth. We now see a well put-together Griffin driving an expensive car through a forest, right as the fireball crashes into the forest. Griffin pulls over and sees a phoenix (Selita Ebanks) and he eventually comes to fall in love with the phoenix, as he shows her the sights of Earth, all around the background of West’s album. There is not a lot of talking in this short film, and it definitely feels like a 30-minute music video at times. I couldn’t tell you much about West as an actor, but he does alright in his few scenes of actual acting. The work by Ebanks is actually quite nice.
This is not the first time a music video has undertaken extreme cinematic roots. West drew inspiration from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video (there is a moment in this film in which we see a huge, paper-mache Jackson head.) as well as Pink Floyd’s “Purple Rain” and “The Wall.” But what makes “Runaway” stand out is the sheer power of the art on the surface. Like I said above, I don’t agree with everything West does in his personal life, but there is no doubt that he is a true artist. As far as directorial inspiration goes, West claimed that he looked at Federico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick for inspiration. As the film opens in a foggy forest as West drives down a long, winding road, it is hard not to see the inspiration from Fellini, as well as the surreal dance number during West’s performance of his song “Runaway.” I definitely see Kubrick in the moments of fast-paced montages and extreme camera angles and close-ups, such as with the scene when West brings the phoenix to see fireworks in the desert. It is clear what West is channeling in his short film, however it is also clear to see how original the piece really is and that is pretty awesome.
What really makes this “30-minute music video” feel like something more is well a storyteller West and his team are when bringing this short film together. If you listen to West’s song “Runaway,” I interpret as a song about a guy who has finally met the woman of his dreams, but he can’t hold onto her because he an obsessive-compulsive behavior to chase other women, yet he still wants to be with this “good girl,” even though he can’t help but be with other women too. The song can also be interpreted about a man who doesn’t believe in the term “the grass is greener on the other side” or maybe he relishes that term too much. The song is about a guy that is never satisfied by anything or anybody, which has led to an unfulfilled, eventless life. In the short film “Runaway” we kind of see how Griffin parallels West’s song. He seems to find true love when he meets the phoenix, but all he shows her are the un-pure, non-innocent parts of our world, which urges her to leave, even though Griffin is desperate for her to say. “Runaway” is not just thirty minutes of pretty pictures that are striving for meaning, “Runaway” is true art given life onscreen.
I think you give the time to check out “Runaway,” you will see that Kanye West is more than rapper and a bad boy, he is a true artist. He really went big and ambitious with this short film, and it all paid off for him.