Almost two weeks after unveiling his debut short film in Paris, Kanye West last night introduced Runaway to American fans, describing the 35-minute production as a piece inspired by a child’s perspective. “I feel like I’ve found my creative sweet spot, to think like a five-year-old at all times,” West told a few hundred fans (including approving friends Pete Wentz and Big Sean) in a Los Angeles theater.
But he has only found that sweet spot after a “long, hard year” — in explaining the film, West disclosed that he has contemplated suicide and has suffered the loss of several close relatives. All of which comes as his musical ambitions are as expansive as ever: he mentioned that his new single “All Of the Lights” features 11 superstar artists, and suggested that he might do an album with his cohorts from his recently revived supergroup Child Rebel Soldier. Details on West’s big night below:
Monday night found the rapper feeling ready to share. Dressed in an elegant black jacket, West told the crowd at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood that he had long intended to create a long-form video piece to accompany his music (he mentioned that he had considered producing an extended video as far back as 2005′s Late Registration). “I see the music,” he said. “I see scenery. I see all these ideas… It hurts me to not see these things come to life.”
But as he proceeded through the recording of what would become My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West said he had finally pushed to create a single long-form video that drew from the clear, unfiltered vision that he believed a child might have. Filmed in Prague, the film is filled with bold colors, long, slow camera sweeps and striking visuals, all of which unspool against a soundtrack of West’s new songs, including “Power”, “Runaway”, G.O.O.D. Friday jam “Devil In A New Dress” and new single “All Of The Lights”, which includes contributions from John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Rihanna and Elton John. (The film premieres on MTV this weekend).
It begins with narration from Nicki Minaj (over subtitles in French), as West is shown driving a black MTV Tatra sportscar through a forest. Out of a blazing fireball in the sky comes a phoenix falling to earth. West picks up the phoenix, played by Selita Ebanks, and carries her home. When she wakes up, she watches TV news coverage of the fire, before West speaks his first line: “First rule in this world, baby: Don’t pay attention to anything you see on the news.”
The rest of the script, written by music video icon Hype Williams, follows the phoenix as she discovers Earth’s culture, most strikingly as West shows takes her to a mini-parade that includes a fireworks display and a small float representing the head of Michael Jackson. (West explained later that the scene was a comment on how society builds cults of personality around pop icons). As the fireworks pop, the music in the film shifts to “All Of The Lights”. (Evidently West still isn’t quite satisfied with the mix).
The film takes a dramatic turn when West brings the phoenix to an elaborate banquet, where guests seat at a long all-white table. Ballerinas in black tutus perform a mix of traditional ballet and modern dance as West performs “Runaway” from atop a piano. All of that leads to a critical moment for the phoenix, who unfurls her wings in full for the first time. Near the end of the film, West is seen running at fill speed down the same forest road seen in the opening scenes.
West told the collected audience that, after the death of his mother and a number of other close relatives in recent years — not to mention the criticism he faced after last year’s run-in with Taylor Swift — he is ready to face the future as a “solider of culture”.
“I’m so not f***ing scared. I don’t care. I don’t care whatsoever,” he said. “What I see as the truth, that’s what I’ll deliver.”