Beyond the Black Rainbow: Death by Celluloid

When you start viewing the selections of a film festival, the initial few will definitely color your expectations for the rest. What were the curators thinking? you might just ponder,

Happily, the first offering of this year's Tribeca Film Festival that I screened was Pierre Thoretton's superb documentary on the designer Yves Saint Laurent, L'Amour Fou, a true must-see if you adore fashion, interior design, the Sixties and Seventies, travel, and an exploration of depressed genius with guest appearances by Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger.

Unhappily—and "unhappily" is an understatement here—the next movie I confronted immediately afterwards was Panos Cosmatos' experimental piece of crapola, Beyond the Black Rainbow.

Now, to be fair, I only viewed the film's first 30 minutes, but after four other reviewers ran for the exit, I knew if I valued my sanity, I had to join them.

Set in a "futuristic 1983," the screenplay focuses on the rather insane Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers), who runs the Arboria Institute, a foundation that offers "happiness through technology." Seemingly, his only patient is Elena (Eva Allen), a beautiful but mostly comatose young woman he awakens at one point by pounding his pen on some sort of microphone. The resulting noise's effect on Elena and the viewers (us) is no more annoying than any other sound on the soundtrack (which was composed "entirely on analog synthesizers"). This aural bombardment is not even more annoying than the film-student cinematography. "Hey! Let's shoot the next whole scene with a dark red tint."

Well, at one point, Nyle leaves Arboria and goes home to where a rather introverted and mentally abused Rosemary Nyle (Marilyn Norry) is sleeping, an act which is apparently a no-no. To overcome this apparent misbehavior, she tells the good doctor, who might just be her husband or brother, "If you're hungry, there's some brown rice and steamed asparagus in the refrigerator."

In the succeeding shots, instead of seeing Nyle munching on veggies, we get to view him swallowing twenty pills, one at a time. Did I tell you it was one at a time?

I departed the theater soon after, joyfully inhaling the Big Apple's fragrant night air while skipping under a star-laden sky, which reminds me that Victor Hugo once noted, "Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time." I had just lengthened mine. - Brandon Judell

brandon.jpgMr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theater" and "Intro to Mass Communications" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton).

Sierra Club

If only as a stylistic

If only as a stylistic exercise, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a fantastic piece of work.

You couldn't make it past the half hour mark? Really?

Absurd review.

Dear Anonymous:

I revealed in my 4th paragraph that I only watched 30 minutes of "Beyond the Black Rainbow." This was an announcement to my readers that they could bail out of my review whenever they wanted to. Apparently, though, my critique was so fabulous that you continued to the very end. I find that extremely rewarding and thus hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Beyond the Black Rainbow

Mr. Judell, how can you accurately critique a film that you only watched thirty minutes of? Seems a bit unfair to judge if you didn't make the commitment to see the whole movie. I made the commitment to read your entire review, so you should respect an artist's work that you are critiquing and sit through the film. Even if your sanity is in jeopardy...

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