Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tribeca ’11: Beyond the Black Rainbow

Welcome to the early 1980’s, the era of Commodore computers and oppressive prog rock. Anyone jonesing for the garish look and casual disregard for narrative drive exemplified by the films screened by the MST3K robots will be delighted with this retro for its own sake sci-fi potboiler. The rest of us mere mortals will be left scratching their heads after sitting through Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow (trailer here), which screens late nights at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

By day, Dr. Barry Nyle torments the heavily drugged Elena in his sinister research facility. At night, he putters aimlessly around his shag-carpeted ranch style house. Yet, we can tell events of cosmic enormity are brewing, thanks to the portentous soundtrack. Perhaps Elena is related to Matthew Star, because she seems to have vaguely defined mental powers. Subverting her sedation, Elena makes a break for it, escaping through Buckminster Fuller’s acid trip, but she is not out of the woods (or desert) yet.

Rainbow often feels like it is channeling Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme, which butchered Michael Moorcock’s novel beyond human recognition. However, at least it had the novelty of a soundtrack featuring Beaver & Krause and unlikely enough, jazz legend Gerry Mulligan. In contrast, what most distinguishes Rainbow is its weak perfunctory ending. Frankly, it is such a lame cheat, it is almost a sin against cinema.

It ought to be impossible, but somehow Rainbow’s story is both simplistic and incomprehensible. Aside from a bit of sadism, the film is an entirely static one-note viewing experience. Still, to her credit, Eva Allan tries to cobble together something workable as Elena.

If you find yourself at a Rainbow screening, you can pass the time by counting walk-outs. There were ten when I saw it. For a while there were eleven, but one dude must have just gone to the men’s room. He took his time though. Rainbow is sure to have its hipster champions, but it is just a headache of a film. It screens again this Thursday (4/28) and Friday (4/29) as a Cinemania selection at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.