Director Panos Cosmatos pays homage to sci-fi films of the 70’s and 80’s with his first feature Beyond The Black Rainbow, a melting pot rich in bold images and thick in a retro atmosphere. While many critics say Cosmatos exhibits a Kubrikian influence, Rainbow is best described as follows: a Richard Stanley piece on acid, with a dash of THX 1138, echoes of Solaris, the iconography of Luis Buñuel and Kenneth Anger – the music of John Carpenter, the provocative visions of Dario Argento and David Cronenberg, and a narrative structure reminiscent of David Lynch and Ken Russell. Yet despite its cinematic influences, Cosmatos produces something that has a distinct character all its own. Describing what the film is about is a tough task, but it can be said that Black Rainbow explores notions of inter-dimensional time travel
and control, both psychological and physical. Rainbow’s tedious pacing contributes to the confusing nature of the movie, but Cosmatos isn’t interested in providing a clear narrative; instead he reduces the pic to its basic elements: sight and sound. Meditative and downbeat, but Black Rainbow is visually extraordinary, with Cosmatos playing on perspectives and dislocations throughout – nowhere more brilliantly than in a flashback sequence in pure black and white, where only the subject’s shadow lines are clearly visible. In this sequence, our protagonist emerges from a black hole, perhaps reborn, his body dripping in what appears to be black ink. The image alone is worth the price of admission, provided you are patient enough to sit through a slow burn.
Cinematographer Norm Li’s eye-popping visuals provide a dark and unsettling quality to the pic, set against the omnipresent creepy synth score which helps maintain a hypnotic rhythm. The abrasive and hyper-stylized direction, heightened colours, fetish costumes, and sterile set design makes for a surreal, mind-bending, fucked up but totally awesome adventure. Cosmatos, whose background includes experimental films, music videos and album covers, carefully crafts a terrifying vision of abuse and power, high-tended even more by the amazing central performance of Michael Rogers.
Beyond The Black Rainbow is austere, cerebral, and sometimes maddening. If you enjoy films that evoke and explore atmosphere and don’t mind missing out on a straightforward narrative, then Rainbow is for you. Everyone else, be warned.