Beyond the Black Rainbow
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Held captive in a specialized medical facility, a young woman with unique abilities seeks a chance to escape her obsessed captor.
Set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of the year 1983, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons. From the producer of Machotaildrop, Rainbow is the outlandish feature film debut of writer and director Panos Cosmatos. Featuring a hypnotic analog synthesizer score by Jeremy Schmidt of Sinoia Caves and Black Mountain, Rainbow is a film experience for the senses.
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I always struggle with films like this. It's a brave choice to make a film without a clear narrative, and sometimes it works--based on the strength of the other elements, including characters/acting, effects/visuals/cinematography, and music. It seems to me that it's usually a 50/50 split as to the effectiveness of this sort of film.
It's difficult to latch onto or empathize with any of these characters. Elena is the most sympathetic character by far, but even she doesn't really get interesting until the latter third of the film. Dr. Nyle is creepy, but that's pretty much as deep as his character development ever gets, with the examinations of his personal backstory and personal abnormalities seemingly there only to add more layers of creepiness atop the rest. That said, the acting is excellent, with Michael Rogers' Barry Nyle being the standout. Eva Allen as Elena isn't, unfortunately, given much to do until the last half hour or so, but what we see from her is compelling. Other characters are practically furniture in terms of their screen time and impact on the plot, though Scott Hylands' Mercutio Arboria immediately hooked me within the opening minutes.
Let's get this second part out of the way quickly: The film is gorgeous. There's a reason other reviewers have likened this to 2001: A Space Odyssey--like Stanley Kubrick, Panos Cosmatos has a clear understanding of how to make compelling, surreal, beautiful visuals. Kubrick's surreality is more specific in terms of its purpose, though, than that of Cosmatos, which, much like the layers of creepiness that are a thin attempt at fleshing out Nyle, seem like a thin attempt to make the film more "cerebral." Again, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. The visuals and effects here are cool and the cinematography is impressive, but it doesn't tell any clearer a story than the narrative.
As for the music, well...this is a rocking soundtrack. Seriously, it's the only thing that kept me watching the last half hour instead of turning it off. Props to Jeremy Schmidt for the John Carpenter-Tangerine Dream-György Ligeti-soaked score, which I will be purchasing and adding to my collection.
It's a shame, then, that despite the other elements all being so impressive, that the film is not any more cohesive. This falls squarely on the shoulders of its poor narrative focus. It would have been better as a short film, perhaps under an hour, to create a more streamlined product. I have no problem with "deep" movies, but there comes a point when "deep" becomes "inscrutable", when the plot and the point are buried so "deep" that it's almost impossible to understand.
It's flawed, but worth at least a partial watch, and I'll definitely be looking forward to Panos Cosmatos' upcoming works.
Overall, it's a three out of five. Rent the movie. Buy the score.
That being said, the rest was horrible. I mean I usually enjoy artsy movies. Only God Forgives comes to mind as a movie that only a handful of people enjoyed including myself, with impressive visuals but an obscure plot. But this movie...man, the plot was weak, the ending was atrocious, and any real action was quickly cut away to make room for endless drawn out scenes of closeups of the characters' faces or them performing everyday tasks except 1000x slower than a normal human being.
Of course this is just my opinion, as others really seemed to enjoy it, but finishing this movie really pissed me off because the entire thing felt like a chore and I kept telling myself it'd all pay off. But no. Nothing. I've never tried as hard to like a movie as I did this one but I just couldn't.
The imagery is stunning and there's at least a few really creepy visuals. A few funny kill scenes lighten the mood.
The music is electronic 80's synth stuff that's all over horror movies and series as of late.
I'm either missing a deep meaning or purposeless bliss because I have no idea what I just watched.
It gets a 3/5 for originality and what great works it may inspire.
It's memorable and could be watched at least one more time to see if things start coming together.
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Also, the score was top notch!