Blu-ray Review: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Is Everything And Nothing Like You'd Expect

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
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Blu-ray Review: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Is Everything And Nothing Like You'd Expect
There has been no shortage of digital ink spilled at ScreenAnarchy regarding Panos Cosmatos' psychedelic future-shock mind fuck, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and as such, I had some pre-conceived notions going in to this viewing. I was expecting an homage to the '70s-early '80s sci-fi classics like Coma, The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, and the like; what I got was pretty close to that vibe, though it goes quite a bit further than all of those into the deeper reaches of the subsconcious mind. Beyond the Black Rainbow is certainly a trip, and quite unlike most modern homages to genre films of the past. Whereas the exploitation and giallo booms of the seventies have had their own revivals, this era of science fiction has not, and Beyond the Black Rainbow sets quite an intimidating bar for quality.

As I mentioned above, we've written several reviews on the film, so many in fact that we even collected them into a Review Roundup upon the film's limited theatrical release over the summer. Here are a few of those opinions from various ScreenAnarchy minds:
I have no doubt that the film will look gorgeous once it makes its way to Blu-ray, but there can be no better way of experiencing Beyond the Black Rainbow than in the immersion tank that is the cinema, where you are oblivious to everything else except the vivid and startling noises and images that Cosmatos has conjured up. It is a trip that will likely infuriate and delight filmgoers in equal measure, but science-fiction aficionados can rest assured that Cosmatos has delivered one serious head-trip

-James Marsh (From Fantastic Fest 2011)
As a director, Cosmatos is meticulous and economical. Every single shot counts, every small gesture like the dropping of cigarette ash or the setting down of keys - all captured in extreme close ups - heightens the constant dread the picture pulsates with. Nothing is superfluous. Even if just for atmosphere, even if just to add a visual accent to Sinoa Caves' brooding electronic score. ... My best suggestion for watching Beyond The Black Rainbow is to sit back, relax and ingest its black heart of liquid chrome, freely, and without much thought. Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. Inhale. And get ready for quite a trip.

- Ben Umstead (From Tribeca 2011)
Beyond the Black Rainbow is not a fannish mash-up, but a highly accomplished, challenging, and ultimately unclassifiable genre film: dreamy, paced in a way that qualifies as "meditative" rather than "leisurely," and not quoting or sampling films so much as transfiguring them.

- Peter Gutierrez (From his interview with the director for Tribeca 2011)
And, as an aside, I know that Peter Martin, who graciously collected all of these quotes, also liked the film.

As for me, in case you couldn't glean my leanings from the introductory paragraph, I was impressed and perplexed by the film in equal measure. My expectations were completely upended by Beyond the Black Rainbow's esoteric leanings, and I found that the film shares more with films like 2001 or Sunshine (the good parts) than any of the seventies films I was expecting to see referenced. The atmosphere and visuals, including setting the film in a parallel 1983 future-space, are definitely repurposed from the '70s aesthetic, but this film utilizes them in a whole new way.

Not one for wimps, Beyond the Black Rainbow is the rare film that succeeds in being both entertaining and challenging. The pacing will throw off more casual film fans, as the film and its characters take their time getting from place to place, but the rewards are manifold, and the ending is a kick in the nuts. It's difficult to give this one a definite "buy" recommendation, but it is certainly worth a rental, just so you know what you're getting into.

The Disc:

As Mr. Marsh mentioned in the above excerpt, one would expect this film to look fantastic on Blu-ray, and one would be correct. The film is so heavily filtered, though, that it is hard to pin down any one look as characteristic of Black Rainbow. The film was shot on film, and this transfer shows a beautiful layer of grain in many shots, however, not all of them, this isn't due to excessive tinkering, but rather the extensive post-production of the film. Pretty much every shot in the film is through a filter of some kind, but it works, and I have no complaints about the image. The sound is much easier to recommend. Beyond the Black Rainbow has had just as many compliments about its score as the film has itself, and the DTS-HD track on this disc is a killer. If you're looking for some heavy '80s synth madness, this is the place. The score kicks some serious ass, and this audio track makes it sound FANTASTIC.

Now, about the extras. When I reported the details on this release last month, I reported from Magnet's press release that the film's extras would include a commentary, a making-of, deleted and extended scenes and more. However, when I received the disc, there was only one unused effect and a trailer. Being the advocate (reactionary) that I am, I started screaming all over the internets about how we'd been bamboozled. However, when some friends of mine contacted Mr. Cosmatos about the disc, he told them that the extras that were on the disc were the only ones he knew of and that the previously mentioned other bonus features were never even produced, or at least they were never supposed to be on this disc. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not disappointed. The one unused effect on the disc is pretty boring and not really worth watching, and the trailer isn't anything I couldn't find on YouTube, however, the stuff that I was expecting looks rad, and I'm bummed that I don't get to see it. Do with that information whatever you choose.

Benjamin Umstead, James Marsh and Peter Gutierrez contributed to this story.

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Around the Internet

Knarf BlackSeptember 19, 2012 11:50 AM

I was actually a bit disappointed in the transfer; there are some serious banding issues in one major scene and a few others look a bit soft, but the movie changes looks so often that it's not a major issue.

The sound is amazing, though. Make sure you watch it on the biggest, loudest surround system you have access to.

Zayda MiearsSeptember 19, 2012 1:06 PM

Watched it on my friends home theater system.. There were some flaws here and there but overall it's a great flick

Simpleminded FoolSeptember 19, 2012 10:52 PM

Could not enjoy the film as there seemed to be no clear narrative being told up until the point where I ceased watching and moved on to another movie where the director seemed actually interested in communicating with me as a viewer.

W.T. SnacksSeptember 20, 2012 5:14 AM

Well that's unfortunate about the special features. Has anyone contacted Magnet to see what's up? Are they going to eventually make those special features do another release, or are we out of luck?
I'd love a commentary track for this!

Jon LachonisSeptember 20, 2012 6:26 PM

I was thoroughly disappointed by Magnet not coming through as described, but it is certainly worth the price of the Blu Ray to get such a pristine cut. I bought the DVD as well, and will say that the final cut seems more geared towards lower resolution and film projection then it does what Blu Ray is capable of. Anywho, a great flick and @panoscosmatos has posted some ultra cool behind the scenes on his twitter. Still hoping for a director's commentary some day, but it would almost ruin the film to know the particulars, right?

Jon LachonisSeptember 20, 2012 6:28 PM

I promise if you give it a chance the plot will become clear. It's really not that oblique ... part of the affect of the movie is the slow and hypnotic pace that leads you up to the action.

Edgar AllenSeptember 25, 2012 7:14 PM

This is one that you may want to stream before you run out
and buy the Blu-Ray. I was sitting in my office at DISH on Friday afternoon
surfing through my On Demand options when I came across Beyond the Black
Rainbow. The description was kind of vague, but I decided to rent it and then I
left for the day. It had downloaded to my Hopper DVR , ready to watch, by the
time I walked in the door. I really didn’t have any idea what I was in for. The
movie was visually mesmerizing, but in the end I found it slow and the story
seems to be sacrificed in favor of cinematography. I wouldn’t recommend buying
this movie unless you wish to add it to your existing collection of films like
The Andromeda Strain and 2001.

Niels MatthijsOctober 1, 2012 4:45 AM

Loved it, though the ending was seriously flawed. Shooting outside is clearly a lot trickier as the look of the film started to fade little by little. It should've ended 20 minutes earlier, but all what came before was damn impressive.

Little thing about the soundtrack: a bit boring and safe for a film that wants to be challenging. Got a few BoC vibes, not really what I was hoping for.

Greg SethJanuary 14, 2013 1:42 AM

another person that needs a plot spoon fed to them. Don't watch David Lynch films then either.