Twitch's Review Roundup: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, a Bold and Ethereal Head Trip
After a successful run on the festival circuit, Beyond the Black Rainbow begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on Friday. Filled with many gorgeous, perplexing wonders, the film fairly well demands that it be experienced in a cinema, if at all possible.
James Marsh laid out the premise in his review:
With his ambitious first feature, writer-director Panos Cosmatos emerges as a bold new visionary in science-fiction filmmaking. Beautifully shot and meticulously designed, Beyond the Black Rainbow takes place in an alternate 1986, where a secretive scientific operation called the Arboria Initiative is experimenting with mind-altering drugs in an attempt to explore the limitless possibilities of the human psyche. Their leading researcher, Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) oversees the treatment of a female patient, Alena (Eva Allen), who is kept imprisoned within a featureless cell devoid of access to the outside world. Does she possess telekinetic powers? Is she a creation or by-product of the institute's research, or does Alena represent the next step in our psychological evolution?
James concluded by explaining why the film is best appreciated in a cinema:
I have no doubt that the film will look gorgeous once it makes its way to Blu-ray, but there can be no better way of experiencing Beyond the Black Rainbow than in the immersion tank that is the cinema, where you are oblivious to everything else except the vivid and startling noises and images that Cosmatos has conjured up. It is a trip that will likely infuriate and delight filmgoers in equal measure, but science-fiction aficionados can rest assured that Cosmatos has delivered one serious head-trip.
In his review, Ben Umstead described the film's relationship to its influences:
It would be far too easy to label Cosmatos' first feature effort as overly derived from 80s sci-fi and fantasy flicks. Sure, one may see strands of Cronenberg, Carpenter, or even Tarkovsky films in its makeup. One could even get the sense that the sets are lit with an over-sized Light Bright and built from Lego, but to dismiss the film as a nostalgic wet dream, a remixed remix, is to dismiss a filmmaker with a voice all his own. Yes, it's a developing one, and thus it encounters some cracking and croaking along the way, but Cosmatos has arrived on the scene with something quite special.
As a director, Cosmatos is meticulous and economical. Every single shot counts, every small gesture like the dropping of cigarette ash or the setting down of keys - all captured in extreme close ups - heightens the constant dread the picture pulsates with. Nothing is superfluous. Even if just for atmosphere, even if just to add a visual accent to Sinoa Caves' brooding electronic score. ... My best suggestion for watching Beyond The Black Rainbow is to sit back, relax and ingest its black heart of liquid chrome, freely, and without much thought. Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. Inhale. And get ready for quite a trip.
Peter Gutierrez sat down with director Cosmatos to discuss the film; in his introductory comments, Peter had this to say:
Beyond the Black Rainbow is not a fannish mash-up, but a highly accomplished, challenging, and ultimately unclassifiable genre film: dreamy, paced in a way that qualifies as "meditative" rather than "leisurely," and not quoting or sampling films so much as transfiguring them.
Peter asked the director if he was concerned, or delighted, that his work might be grouped with other "note-perfect retro films and directors of recent years":
Of course I'd be delighted to be grouped in with anything that is considered "note-perfect"! ... Having said that, I feel this film has as much in common with movies like Pink Flamingoes, Alphaville and Static, which take place in very esoteric, personal worlds, than any of the current crop of genre stuff, retro or otherwise. It's a very feminine film in that way, whereas most of the new stuff I am seeing feels very testosterone-driven.
To find out which film Cosmatos believes to be the best genre film of the past 10 years, you'll have to read the entire interview!
Beyond the Black Rainbow opens on Friday, May 18 in New York and Los Angeles before expanding into other cities in the following weeks. Check the official site for more information.