Kanye West's highly anticipated debut film,
The film's narrative focuses on the ill-fated relationship between West and a phoenix that plummets from the cosmos (Selita Ebanks). Their union is torn apart after the otherworldly creature is discriminated against for her curious behavior and features. Buoyed by West's soulful soundtrack, comprised of G.O.O.D. Friday joints and tracks slated for his forthcoming fifth LP, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the film's subtexts include themes of social ostracism and rebirth — issues the MC has said he identifies with.
The movie opens with West bolting furiously down a road tucked away in a forest, his partially unbuttoned shirt flapping against his bare chest. A fireball careening through the clouds lights up the screen as the voice of Nicki Minaj, affecting a colorful British brogue, cryptically introduces the film.
Then it's back to the picturesque country road. A sleek sports car motors along as the film's first song begins, which features West spitting lyrics like, "Too many Urkels on your team/ That's why your wins low," a line he dropped during his 2010 BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher. Suddenly, the MTX Tatra Yeezy's driving crashes, and when he gets out to inspect the damage, he finds a phoenix lying in the road. West carries the fallen creature away from the scene as balls of fire continue to erupt behind them.
The next scene begins with the phoenix sleeping and twitching on a couch in a clean, minimalist room. She starts to awaken as a news report blathers on about a comet that set off a raging blaze and is startled when the broadcast is suddenly flicked off. West appears holding a remote, looks into the camera and utters the film's first few lines of dialogue: "First rule in this world, baby, don't pay attention to anything you see in the news."
During the next few sequences, as the phoenix hangs out in West's backyard and begins to discover her new surroundings, the pair's relationship blossoms as well. The phoenix sways as West knocks out a chopped-up revamp of "Power" on an MPC. A kid decked out in all-red, clutching a baton that spews crimson smoke into the air, heralds one of the film's most dramatic moments. As the megastar-studded collabo "All the Lights" kicks in, fireworks streak the sky and a marching band clad in crimson-colored ensembles appears. The crew leads a giant bust of Michael Jackson's head, as the phoenix and West look on in delight, clutching each other's hands. West's "Lights" lyric "Something wrong, I hold my head/ MJ gone, that n---a dead" blares as the procession continues and eerie-looking marchers sporting pointed red hoods bring up the rear.
In the following scene, the phoenix stumbles through a lesson on dining etiquette, clumsily practicing how to sip from a teacup with her long gilded talons. The moment foreshadows the subsequent scene and climax of the film — a formal dinner party.
The phoenix and West enter an expansive white hall to the buttery strains of 'Ye's second G.O.O.D. Friday release, "Devil in a New Dress." Seated at a large banquet table are several cocoa-skinned diners dressed in white; they shoot disapproving glares at the duo. The phoenix has dressed up her look with a gilded headpiece but disgusts her fellow diners with her inelegant table manners. West seems amused by the scene until the guest next to him strikes up an unsettling conversation.
The man leans in, saying, "Your girlfriend is really beautiful," and West replies proudly, "Thank you."
"Do you know she's a bird?" the guest queries.
"Naw, I never noticed that," Yeezy deadpans, looking pained.
"I mean, like, leave the monkey in the zoo," the man responds.
The brief exchange appears to upset West, who crosses the room and begins to punch out wobbly versions of the otherwise crisp opening notes of "Runaway" on an out-of-tune piano.
Instantly, a wave of dancers sporting black tutus crash the affair and bust out a mix of classical ballet and contemporary footwork. The guests continue to dine as West performs, raising their glasses at one point as the song, which salutes "douche bags," plays on. West climbs atop the piano and belts out "Run away from me, baby!" before the camera circles the company of dancers now frozen in place. Then, several lead dancers take turns at solos, which are spliced together in a seamless, slow-motion montage. The ladies gyrate, execute pas de bourrées and agile arabesques as the garbled Auto-Tuned vocals and choppy violins of the song's extended outro chirp away. When West, still holding court at the piano, puts his hand over his heart, the dancers thunder out as quickly as they came and the diners applaud.
However, the occasion comes to an unfortunate end when the main course is served. A large, plated feathered turkey is set in front of the phoenix. She begins wailing in agony at the sight, wings splayed, her screams driving away the dinner guests. West sits quietly, looking dejected.
Later, as the couple sit on his roof, she asks where statues come from. However, as 'Ye begins to explain, she cuts him off and insists sculptures that populate the globe are just phoenixes that have been turned to stone by a rigid society and declares she has to "burn" and return home.
"Do you know what I hate most about your world?" she asks West. "Anything that is different you try to change. You try to tear it down." West begs her to stay and they make love, the phoenix, bathed in red light, writhing on top of West to the balmy, Auto-Tuned a cappella vocals that kick off West's Bon Iver-assisted track "Lost in the World."
West wakes up the following morning alone on the roof and, realizing the phoenix has decided to return to her realm, darts off into the forest, playing out the film's opening scene. But the phoenix has already started her fiery journey back home, outfitted in a golden breastplate. She looks forlorn as she shoots into the sky, leaving behind a brilliant blaze and a desperate West still sprinting through the forest.
What did you think of Kanye West's film debut, "Runaway"? Sound off in the comments!
After the premiere of "Runaway," Kanye West sat down with MTV News to discuss the creation and meaning of the film. Check out the entire interview.