Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kanye West Evokes Spirit of Walt Disney and Fendi in Short Film - L.A. Premiere "Runaway" Reviewed

Film: Runaway
Star Cast: Kanye West, Selita Ebanks
Cinematography: Kyle Kibbe
Music: Kanye West
Director: Kanye West
Art Director: Vanessa Beecroft
Producer: Jonathan Lia
Story by: Kanye West
Written by: Hype Williams
Editor: Dereck Lee
Costume Design: Phillip Lim & Martin Izquierdo
Visual Effects: Company 3
35 minutes

By Billie Jordan

Want to get out of the house and feel incredibly moved, awe struck, and multi-sensorial-ly stimulated, then “Runaway” is a short film Hip-hop fans, entertainment critics, plus ardent devotees of fine “culture” alike will love to devour. Directed by Kanye West, “Runaway” was created to accompany West’s new album “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” releasing Monday November 22, 2010. This movie, a short film of epic proportions is more than just a musically inspired fairytale; the director (West) has tried successfully to capture the best of cinematography, sound and profound psychological meaning within a 35 minute time frame.

“I wanted to do a film that represented the whole album… I got a bunch of crazy ideas to really bring all the emotions I connected with as a child… [with a magnitude like] the mission I thought Walt Disney was on. I thought what would I do if I were five,” West said.

The film starts out with Griffin, played by Kanye West running with all his might down a scenic black road, surrounded by great trees, when a voice narrating the introduction creates the wondrous and nostalgic feeling of the greatest Walt Disney animations. The voice, which begins sweet and calming, grows dark and fierce; the sky turns red, we see a standing deer – the scene is an explosion of magnificent color and then a fiery eruption from the sky. All which hints that what’s next is a larger than life film; and the viewer is already drawn in, completely.

Moments later we see the Phoenix, played by the Selita Ebanks ejected from the sky and strewn on the ground – she is absolutely beautiful and costumed in nothing but magnificent wings and feathers placed only on the most intimate locations; her body nearly bare and in top form. She is a mystical creature, whose beauty is striking and Griffin has found her and is taken aback. We see him carrying her in his arms.

The music plays we hear lyrics “Can we get much higher…” a song from West’s new album, “My Dark Twisted Fantasy beams.” His album is the sound track for the film, and is moving. There are French sub titles to accompany English dialog. Though the characters speak infrequently the film holds its stunning appeal.

We see Griffin has brought the Phoenix back to his extravagant home, and on the television a news caster is speaking in French. In this scene Griffin tells the Phoenix “First thing you need to learn, baby – Don’t pay attention to anything you see in the news.”

We see the Phoenix crawling around on the grass in a lavish yard, she is exploring; there is a sheep and a dog in the yard with her. The film continues and completes just as amazingly as it began. The phoenix who’s beauty in “Runaway” should be talked about for ages is seen dancing otherworldly, and exotic; wings outstretched and her nearly bare breast abundant and erect. Griffin is absorbed with watching his possession. He continues to observe the phoenix in curious amazement, contemplating her beauty and innocence throughout the film.

Later we see a dining area and a long fine dining table. Seated are affluent, well dressed blacks in white linen. The servers are all white women, and standing in wait -hostesses dressed in short white dresses, reminiscent of Roman slaves, although contemporary. (Here we might ask is this scenario part of West’s “…Dark Twisted Fantasy,” as implied by the album’s title.

Griffin enters with the Phoenix. The scenery is rich and classic guest, all gawk at the Phoenix’s beauty and strangeness. She becomes insecure and tries to appease guest at the table. Somehow, Ebanks' coyness in this scene reminds me of Thandie Newton in the naked and pregnant, on-the- porch take in Oprah Winfrey’s movie “beloved.”

Next, Griffin strums the background cords of the theme song on a white piano, and soon after Ballet dancers waltz in, dressed in black ballerina costumes, each with their own design. They perform a dance routine to “Runaway” the theme song of the album; their bodies are strong and firm, and even voluptuous. Their movements magnificently graceful and their routine is choreographed perfectly to base driven hip-hop music, but remains classy. The dancing and music are exquisite. At one point the Phoenix is shown with legs open and a portion of her crotch exposed, while enjoying the performance.

The theme song booms “And I always find, yeah, I always find somethin' wrong
You been puttin' up wit' my shit just way too long. I'm so gifted at findin' what I don't like the most
So I think it's time for us to have a toast” the music plays “baby I got a plan runaway fast as you can”

This scene ends with Griffin taking a bow to the dancers as they end their number and waltz out of the room. He places his hand to his heart in appreciation. We notice that both the dancers, along with the servers are all white women. When the servers, mostly blonde bring in the dinner platters we see an elegant setting with several cooked birds and a beautifully displayed creature still feathered on the center piece. The camera focuses on the Phoenix who is terrified and reveals great outstretched wings fluttering in preparation to flee, we stay with her as she cries out; the moment is remarkable.

We move to a night scene, there’s a marching band carrying an enormous replicate of the late singer, Michael Jackson’s head, there are hooded men in red mask, reminiscent of the white clan masks, a boy runs carrying a tall instrument leaking red smoke.

We pan to Griffith and the Phoenix sitting on top of a hill, and we hear her speak for the first time. She asks Griffin a philosophical question, and the pair discuss the great statues on the streets - that the phoenix believes were once mystical creatures turned to stone. In a moment of insight she tells Griffin, “Anything that is different [humans] try to change;” - (hence the theme song, “Runaway.”) They also discuss her fate, which is soon revealed. We find out why Griffin was running.

Billie Jordan's Review in Short: Runaway” was explosive; perhaps the most awesome and meaningful short film I've seen, ever. The colors were brilliant; the images were larger than life. This film was magnificently beautiful and incredibly touching. The sound was awesome and anchoring. My senses were heightened and I could feel the music and the films exquisite beauty through my body; I frequently moaned in delight.

“Runaway" is infused with a societal message, based on an intolerance of differences. This movie portrays excellence and significant beauty in diversity; it displays fine culture intertwined with hip-hop music.

Bullet Points from the Los Angeles Premier of “Runaway.” Billie Jordan was on the scene in Hollywood.

“My whole world crashed after a moment of honesty,” West said.(Referring to the Taylor Swift saga at the Video Music Awards ceremony -2009)

• The album “My twisted fantasy includes drops from singers: Elton John, Alicia Keyes, Rihanna, John legend, fergie, and kid Cutie. “It sounds completely seamless and completely ghetto as F..K,” West said.

• In an emotional speech after the showing of his film, West told the audience he took a break from music for 6 months, and travelled to Rome where he interned with Fendi, it was there he said that the inspiration for the movie came through.

• “West said, [authorities] in the music industry make artist scared to be authentic.

• He also said, “I’m not F…… scared anymore, if you put me in front of the screen I’m telling the truth. It doesn’t matter to me anymore everything has been taken away from me.” He mentioned the death of his mother and trouble on the home front.

• West spoke fondly of the 60-year- old women who passionately made clothes for Fendi, referring to them as artist.

“If I have this position - that can make people wear skinny jeans... What do you do with that creativity,” West said. “I’m a soldier for culture… In the position that I am in, I have to fight for those that don’t have. The people who I have energy for – I have to do it for them.”

• He told the audience that dropping albums is what he needs to do to maintain.

• West said his short film “Runaway” came from a place of wanting to do better.

• Kanye West, once a middle classed black kid turned wealthy pop superstar is endowed with fine culture, finds it intriguing and vows to share it with his urban counterparts. – Kanye West said at the Los Angeles premiere that he vows also to seek perfection “with every bone in his body” and create the best artist expressions possible, as long as he has the resources.

• Fendi, the design company that Kanye West interned with in Rome is globally known for unabashed extravagance and consistently produces some of the world’s most coveted “it-bags,” including the “baguette” (designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi) which debuted in the nineties and remains a hot commodity. The double-F logo was created by Lagerfeld in the sixties, and shaved into Kanye West’s hair several decades later.

• “Runaway” premieres in NewYork, Thursday October 21, 8P.M. at the Land Mark Sunshine Theater

By Billie Jordan

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