Beyond the Black Rainbow: A Telekinetic Flashback to 1983

Achieving something far weirder and more resonant than the genre pastiche it initially seems to reach for, Rainbow satisfies on practically every level—provided you allow its narcotic pace, lysergic visuals, and throbbing soundtrack to tickle your cortex into a contained frenzy instead of lulling you to sleep. Auteurized to within an inch of its life by first-timer Panos Cosmatos, Rainbow constructs a deliberately opaque narrative with a slyly obscured timeline: An opening title card swears it's 1983, but the helmet hair, turtleneck, and sport-jacket combos, among other tip-offs, read a decade earlier. (A duo-chromatic flashback to 1966 adds yet another temporal wrinkle.) The skeletal story concerns Elena (Eva Allan), a young woman with telekinetic powers who's doped and held against her will in an antiseptic bunker-utopia called Arboria, named for its squirrelly founder, a kind of Timothy Leary/Howard Hughes mashup. Smug, elusive staffer Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) conducts painful experiments on the girl in the guise of therapy before they embark on convergent paths to liberation. These details don't matter much, because Rainbow is a seamless, slavish synthesis of influences above all else. At heart the film is no more (or less) than a brilliantly executed lark, but it's not often that we're reminded with such potency that movies are most delightful as sensory experiences.

 
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