Kanye West’s Runaway

It is not easy to be born an artist no matter what anyone tells you. To have the need to say what you feel, in anger, pain or joy and share it with the world regardless of what comes of it. I genuinely respect Kanye West as an artist, a cultural icon and a creative voice in the dialogue around us. He is truly talented and deserves major props for his skills and brutal honesty, which I’ve always respected. While “Runaway” has some great moments– the opening and closing scenes of Kanye running, the ballerina’s dancing, the young boy in a red hood– the film is more a feature length music video rather than the film I was looking forward to seeing, though that should not discount the artistry and talent that went into making the short film. And the song itself is great regardless for many reasons.

I loved what Kanye said in the beginning on stage before the screening last night, ”I wanted to see this from the point of view of a five year old”. I understand that because so much of who we are especially as artists is formed at that age. And I loved what he said at the end, “I want to paint the world…” Which is also valid and poignant. I admire his voice in the cultural stratosphere and he is right in saying he should use that voice in the best way he can. I also respect his honesty, vulnerability and defiance. There is no love lost in our culture for people who try to defy the norm and create blindly from the heart. It is not an easy road and one we are told should be tread carefully but it will never be a safe endeavor for those who really have a fearless voice. Which is why it kills me to say there was something lacking in the film. The idea and sentiment of pain, anger, fear, loss of innocence and childhood memories are all there, but regardless of Kanye’s talent, Vanessa Beecroft’s art direction and Phillip Lim’s costume design the final execution is a great but much too long music video, not the boundary pushing film I am sure Kanye is capable of making. I imagine the music video to “Runaway” will be a shortened version of what we saw last night and I am sure it will be much stronger than the full length cut.

When I was in high school and just exploring the idea of images married to sound in my own mind I would drive around blasting Joy Division or MC5 and see pictures in my head. Kanye seemed to be saying the same in his introduction to the film. He sees music in images and vice versa. That makes sense to me. Music has always been my first love followed closely by painting. To paint on film with music is my dream. Which is why I wanted so much to love the film last night. Within our daily cynical culture there is nothing better than seeing someone’s dreams materialize, someone’s valid voice get heard and a new work of art be born into the world. For better or worse I am happy I saw someone’s dreams come to life last night. Thank you Kanye for taking the risk and painting the world in your vivid hue. “Runaway” will premiere on MTV and BET on October 23rd at 8pm ET.

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