As filmmaking debuts go, Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow is as striking as it is nuts. The film’s imagery is a wild mélange of every disorienting gimmick in the cinematographers’ handbook, and the synthesizer score (by Jeremy Schmidt of Black Mountain) will leave you feeling as unhinged as the movie’s characters. This is a crazy movie about crazy people doing unearthly things. This Canadian film is set in 1983 in some kind of therapeutic enclave where there appears to be only two doctors, one nurse, and one patient who possesses inexplicable telepathic powers and is being held against her will. Inexplicable is a word that comes to mind frequently when trying to describe this eccentric endeavor. Storytelling is not Cosmatos’ strong suit, and a fuzzy denouement threatens to capsize the project. But, oh, does Cosmatos (with the help of cinematographer Norm Li and production designer Bob Bottieri) have a surfeit of staggering images to lay on us. Color filters, bizarre compositions, and lighting distortions combine with the sound-wavy soundtrack and acutely protracted pacing to keep viewers in a perpetually unbalanced state. Comprehensibility does not appear to be one of this writer/director’s goals, but if someone is able to help Cosmatos marshal his raw visual talent, I’ll be first in line to see his second film. At September’s Fantastic Fest, Beyond the Black Rainbow was given the Special Jury Award for Boldness of Vision – which is just about right.
For Marc Savlov’s interview with Panos Cosmatos, see “This Is Your Mind on Black Rainbows,” Sept. 21, 2011.