There’s good news for everyone who thought that Altered States was okay, but would have been really put over the top if the director had dropped acid at lunch and dinner instead of just for breakfast. And not to be intimidated by the fact that Altered States came out back in the eighties, director Panos Cosmatos engineered his debut brain explosion Beyond the Black Rainbow to look like a film shot during the eighties. Mind. Blown.
Evil mad scientist! Psychedelic drug induced mind experimentation! The mysterious yet confused prisoner trying to escape! Yeah, I have no idea what this is actually about either. Here’s the plot summary to save our day:
Beyond the Black Rainbow, written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons. Cosmatos brings a bold, Kubrickian vision to the screen in stunning detail in this sci-fi fable of a young woman imprisoned in an experimental laboratory and the enigmatic scientist who is her captor. Set in a futuristic 1983, Elena finds herself held against her will in a mysterious facility under the watchful eye of the sinister Dr. Barry Nyle. Pushed to her limits, Elena is left with no choice but to navigate an escape from her labyrinthine prison, in the process revealing its hidden secrets.
On the one hand, if you take out all the faux eighties vibe, you’re not necessarily left with much of interest. But on the other hand, it’s really neat faux eighties vibe. And on a third hand protruding from parts unimaginable, I’m fascinated what people will think about this a hundred years from now. Because the eighties are within our lifetimes (for the most part, get off of my lawn otherwise), we remember those sorts of films hooked to that time period. But decades down the road, the temporal connection will be broken, and such films will end up getting their own label. This film will be considered part of the same oeuvre, without necessarily any consciousness that it was retro. There’s an assumption that art is made in a certain way on purpose, as opposed to being shaped by the technical abilities of the time. And so those not quite completely conscious of the greater cultural context of the period will just look at the artistic decisions as intentional when they were largely made by the limitations of special effects. And so today we get retro films that mimic a look that would never have been constructed if the artists of the time had the tools we have today.
Which means that retro art breaks the space time continuum. Fucking hipsters.