There are certain things in this life that don’t make sense, and we just need to accept that. Kanye West’s brain is one of these things.
Imagine that you are a rapper, a good one. You have, as you keep telling yourself, been through a lot in the past year. So you dream up an epic-length music video to promote your new album. To expand your horizons. To prove that you’re not who everyone thought you were.
Only because you’re Kanye West, you don’t do things the way everyone else does. Other rappers might fill their vanity projects with scenes of them enjoying the high life, surrounded by admirers; you fill yours with explosions and phoenixes. Oh, and also ballerinas. And deer. And sports cars. And a gigantic Michael Jackson balloon. Basically, whatever pops into your crazy brain at any second.
NewsFeed is tempted to say that West’s monstrous 34-minute suite “Runaway,” which premiered online this weekend, is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But that’s not actually true. In the ludicrousness of its plot, in the flat-footedness of its screenplay and performances, in the unabashed egoism that runs through every scene, “Runaway” resembles nothing so much As Tommy Wiseau’s landmark cult film The Room.
The plot in a nutshell: Superstar rapper and serious artist Kanye West is driving his incredibly expensive sports car through the woods one evening, when his car is hit by a comet. This comet contains a phoenix, a mystical bird creature from another world. Kanye rescues the phoenix and takes it to his home, where it plays with his pet deer and drinks tea. (Kanye is fortunate that in the “Runaway” universe phoenixes resemble Victoria’s Secret models with very few clothes on.) Kanye takes the phoenix to a parade, and then to a dinner party. At the party comes this memorable exchange.
Kanye’s Friend: Your girlfriend is very beautiful.
Kanye West: Thank you.
Kanye’s Friend: Did you notice she’s a bird?
Kanye West: No, I never noticed that.
After some songs, the main course is revealed: a stuffed pheasant. This upsets the phoenix, who flies away. Later, Kanye and the phoenix talk about statues. Then they have sex. When the rapper awakes the next morning, the phoenix has returned to her home planet. Kanye, distraught, runs through the woods from the opening scene. The end.
We would delve deeper, but we feel we’ve said enough. And besides, we’ve taken the words of the phoenix to heart: “You know what I hate most about your world? Everything this is different you try to change: You try to tear it down.”
So, yes, “Runaway” is different. And it is, often, laughable. But if we’re saying good things about it, it is one of the most visually interesting vanity projects we’ve ever seen. (One commenter on Gawker compared it to a Peter Greenaway film, which we think is apt.) And the songs are good! And, compared to the sex scenes in The Room, the one is “Runaway” is relatively understated. Until we remember that one of the participants is a bird. Then we’re grossed out again.