A short history of Kanye West's obsession with Stanley Kubrick
Thanks to leaked audio posted by Page Six, we learned that Kanye West had something of a meltdown backstage at Saturday Night Live after some of his staging was compromised. He went on to call Taylor Swift "fake-ass" and added that he's "50% more influential" than any living human being, then comparing himself to director Stanley Kubrick more than once. Is he obsessed with the man who brought us 2001: A Space Odyssey?
One of Kanye's first mentions of Kubrick came as he described the making of "Flashing Lights," his 2008 music video. Touting the video's production, he said, “Look at it graphically, how it starts. With the car, the orange sky, the color palettes, the blue sky, the car pulling up with the orange headlights. And just the beautiful women, taking the Helmut Newton type photo and bringing it to real life and crashing it against Jim Henson and George Lucas type whimsy and taking, like, a [Federico] Fellini, [Stanley] Kubrick pacing and a very graphic novel/ comic book type setup on all the shots. There’s a lot of shots that are borderline illegal for a film student. It just breaks rules, because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing."
But Kanye West's biggest tribute to Kubrick was "Runaway," a heady 35-minute short film from 2010 inspired by musical films like Purple Rain and featuring music off his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. During the production of "Runaway," whose narrative concerns West falling in love with a half-woman/half-phoenix played by Selita Ebanks, West tweeted stills from Kubrick's last movie Eyes Wide Shut. A piano motif that runs throughout the song "Runaway" is lifted from the film. The gigantic music video is meant to be a visual accompaniment to the Fantasy album, and West himself described it both as a tribute to Kubrick, especially in terms of pacing, and "Fellinieseque."
Last year, West had an inspired and very Kanye moment on Keeping Up with the Kardashians where he encouraged cameramen during a scene at an Armenian art school to film "like it's Stanley Kubrick." This meant an expansive shot of the location "so you could see the entirety," he explained.
West has always had a bevy of wide-ranging inspirations (including, for instance, the folk-pop singer-songwriter Laura Nyro, whose song "Save the Country" is sampled on his track "The Glory" off Graduation), but it appears that Kubrick is here to stay as one of his foremost muses -- thanks both to the epic scale of his films and the sheer magnitude of his presence as a pop culture influencer.