Tribeca Review: 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' Sets a New Cult Standard
It is with my utmost pleasure to present you with a first in Simbarashe/Starpulse history. In fact I’m so excited about this review that if it weren’t for me writing this on the B train, I’d toast with a glass of something hard and classy. Beyond the Black Rainbow. What can I say?
(Thinking . . . waiting . . .)
It is absolutely, and without a doubt the most painful film I have seen in my entire life. It's straight up brutal. Bad. But before you decide to skip reading further because I said this, I have news for you: What I’m clearly stating to you now isn’t what you might think. You could probably come up with of a ton of bad films you’ve seen in your life: films too boring, or too confusing, or too tasteless, or too long . . . and I can assure you that Rainbow has none of that . . . at all.
Still with me? Good!
Because director Panos Cosmatos does certain things so well in this film is mind-blowing. As a piece that obviously has love for Kubric’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, if Beyond the Black Rainbow wanted to recreate a We Live in the 70s But Are Making a Film About The Future medium, then visually speaking it gets everything right, quite so in fact. The colours, the makeup, the eerie sort of basement-lighting, the fluorescents, it’s all done perfectly (and I repeat in caps: PERFECTLY). If you were flipping channels and happened upon this movie for ten seconds you’d never, ever believe that it was made later than 1979.
Quick synopsis of the first 10 minutes: mad doctor/scientist imprisons a girl who might be his daughter. She has psychic or telekenitic powers. Maybe he does too. She’s locked in a basement lab and tries to use her powers to escape. He uses his means to keep her imprisoned. Gradually, he starts to lose his mind, and that's when things REALLY get weird. Got that? Now, let’s pretend I tell you that for the next hour and an half, this synopsis is repeated, in 10 minute intervals over and over.
And over and over.
For the next hour and a half.
Does this sound like it would interest you? If this was it, the entire story, Rainbow would just be another one of those really bad films. But ooooh no! Cosmatos is gleefully intent on pushing this thing to another level with you, the viewer. In addition to the (at times brilliantly authentic) visuals, he also has a brilliantly authentic sound architecture and score as well, only instead of it being engineered in 70s Dolby stereo, it's engineered in digital surround with enhanced EQ. The result are sound effects and reverbs and drones that assault the living hell out of you while the scenes randomly cut to blinding blood reds. Remember that scene in the original Star Wars films when Han Solo and Chewbacca were locked in that prison room and the bad guys turned on that blaring alarm noise as a form of torture? Ladies and gentlemen, Beyond the Black Rainbow! It doesn’t insult for two hours, it assaults! Before the Tribeca Film Festival during the press-only screening, a third of the critics walked out after only twenty minutes; another third left shortly thereafter (but your dear friend Simbarashe stayed!). This film is so abhorrently painful to sit through that it’s actually destined for greatness.
(What's that you say?)
Hell, it’s destined to be the most cult of cult films, the kind of film that only the most gangster, hardcore movie lover will ever appreciate (and appreciate the crap out of it!), because beyond all the blurry strobes, and the migraine inducing sirens, lies superbly ingenious filmmaking. If Cosmatos wanted to leaving you feeling uneasy after a screening the way Kubrick had so often and deftly been able to, consider yourself woefully molested.
Grade: F (but don't be fooled, it's a most spectacular F)