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Nov 27 2013

Beyond the Black Rainbow…and Other New Films in my Amazon Store

Besides adding a Blu-Ray section, I’ve added five new films to my “Favorite Films” portion of my Amazon store. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the backstory.)

  • Whip It (directed by Drew Barrymore), with my remark, “Google ‘Bechdel test’. This is how it’s done. Also the best roller derby film ever made. By far.”
  • Licence To Kill (directed by John Glen II), with my remark, “Really the best under-appreciated Bond film. And has Pam Bouvier, my favorite bond girl (not just beautiful but funny, capable, has real skills and actually calls bond out on his shit).”
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (directed by Hayao Miyazaki), with my remark, “Second best Miyazaki film ever [the first being Spirited Away]. Steampunk + magic + surprisingly moving story of friendship and self-discovery. You won’t ever have seen a film quite like this.”
  • The Whisperer in Darkness (directed by Sean Branney), with my remark, “The same production company nailed it again, this time producing another Lovecraft classic by mimicking a 1940s talkie,” referring to the entry now immediately before this one, the excellent Call of Cthulhu silent film.
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow (directed by Panos Cosmatos), with my remark, “This bizarre 80s noir scifi film is an artistic masterpiece, but requires multiple very careful viewings to see why (and to understand all the nuances of what’s actually happening).”

Cover of the DVD for Beyond the Black Rainbow. With a dominant color scheme of red, shows the silhouette of a girl running toward the viewer from a glowing and radiating pyramid of light, above whom is a man whose face is oddly hairless, and eyes black, and whose grasping right hand and scary dagger-wielding left hand looms many sizes larger above her, all on a background of pitch darkness. Title above reads: Beyond the Black Rainbow, a Panos Cosmatos Picture, in red over the blackness. Tagline at bottom in white reads The last of those requires a bit more explanation. It’s definitely now one of my favorite films, but for reasons that will be quite mysterious to someone who sees it for the first time and gets frustrated wondering what the hell. (It’s worse if you watch it in a lit room with background noise, then you’ll be totally confused and not at all in the right mood. So…don’t do that. Darkened room, quiet, no interruptions. Best viewed on whiskey at 1am.)

The most fascinating thing about Beyond the Black Rainbow is how superbly well it captures the entire feel of a 1980s noir scifi film–it’s literally made as if it were produced in 1983 (right down to the minutest detail of the cheesy faux-80s pop song playing incongruously over the closing credits, exactly as you’d find if this really had been made in 1983), while trying to top Video Drome, Warriors, and Repo Man for weird atmospheric but totally excitingly bizarre cult classic (while also not being at all like any of those films). The music alone is teleporting and evokes a feeling of odd nostalgia–as if you had seen this movie thirty years ago and had forgotten about it. But even such things as a shag carpet, a plastic faux-futuristic chair, the look and sound of a 1980s computer keyboard, are emphasized masterfully by the director to evoke the feel, the sights and sounds, even–I honestly have to say–the smells of that bygone era.

The script is minimalist and the shooting impressionistic, so you may have too watch the whole movie multiple times to understand what’s going on and what the point is behind every bizarre choice made by the director (and there are a lot of bizarre choices–this movie was made well outside the box of mainstream filmmaking cliches). But even on first viewing you’ll be stuck to your chair, mesmerized, wondering where on earth this is going and what on earth is happening.

The product description is apt but nowhere near captures the reality:

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.

I caught this by accident on uVerse On Demand some time back, where the preview was so weird and nostagia-evoking I just had to see the thing. My wife and I have been weirdly drawn to this film ever since. We later explored the net looking for takes on the film, which ranged from outraged disgust to fawning admiration for its genius (just look at the wild inverted-bell split in the Amazon customer reviews). Overall, I find the people who hated it didn’t understand it (and don’t have the patience for suspense). Whereas I’ve found more and more depth and genius to the film the more times I watch it and realize why the director did what he did at each particular moment, and what it was supposed to evoke or communicate. I love art like that. But it’s not for everyone.

3 comments

  1. 1
    faehnrich

    You see Derby, Baby!?

    Beyond the Black Rainbow sounds good, I’ll have to check it out.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      Derby, Baby! is nonfiction, not fiction. I wouldn’t compare a fictional movie featuring roller derby with a factual documentary about roller derby. Apples and oranges.

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I watched this on my phone in bed in the dark when I was sick and awake in the middle of the night, listening through headphones. I’m not sure what exactly I watched, but it was certainly a powerful experience. :)

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