Tuesday, May 3, 2011

two from Tribeca: Beyond the Black Rainbow & Detachment

Detachment - Tony Kaye q&a

On Friday and Saturday, I wrapped up my short, but memorable, time at the Tribeca Film Festival with two very different films: a late night screening of Cinemania entry Beyond the Black Rainbow, and a special screening of Tony Kaye’s latest film Detachment. The festival had world premiered the film a few days earlier. Here is a brief account of both.

Beyond the Black Rainbow
This was an odd blending of cerebral science fiction and experimentalism – leaning more towards the latter. I absolutely loved the way the movie looked and sounded. Before you take that as an absolute endorsement, know that the aesthetic has a very specific reference point: science fiction of the late 70s and early 80s. For me, it specifically brings to mind some of my favorite early films by Canadian director David Cronenberg. The sense of coldness and melancholy, which has long made me a fan of his work, was captured perfectly by new director Panos Cosmatos. The music, credited to Sinoia Caves, not only adds to the movie’s retro feel, but stands on its own. It will appeal to fans of 70s synthesizer and Krautrock pioneers, such as Klaus Schulze and Kraftwerk, and more recently, creators of melancholy electronic soundscapes like Boards of Canada.
While these elements make for some out of this world moments, the story, merely hinted at, does not hold up under the abstractions. Had there been no narrative to follow, I might’ve been able to appreciate the barrage of psychedelic images as an accompaniment to the mesmerizing music. Instead there is initial promise of a story: Talk of a cultish organization developing an experimental mood altering drug. Plus, a few moments of insight into the mind of the unsettling Dr. Nyle, played by Michael Rogers channeling a cross between David Carradine and a Videodrome (re: Cronenberg) era James Woods. But this story is not satisfactorily delivered. I could imagine the movie being more enjoyable after repeat viewings. Perhaps, most appropriately, on VHS?

This was a huge surprise for me. Emotionally overwhelming and innovatively conceived, Detachment is the latest feature film from esoteric director Tony Kaye, who made American History X and the documentary Lake of Fire. He shows no signs, here, of easing up on his interest in social issues. In fact, this moving, at times difficult to take in, look at the state of the education system in America provides a more harrowing look at the subject than any other film I can think of. Despite essentially being a fictional narrative, it is laden with confrontational truths that bear the mark of thorough research.
My full attention is focused on the status of this film, which is maddeningly up in the air. No definite, or even approximate, release date is available as of this writing. I can imagine its fate taking shape in different ways. It might be heralded as an important dissection of an American institution that has long been in decline and just might be on the brink of disaster. On the other hand, it might be marginalized and criminally underexposed, as is often the fate with works of art that threaten to make people uncomfortable.
Kaye was at the screening, and introduced the film enigmatically with a brief song and some words of caution about the color red. After the film, he discussed some of the very real life inspirations behind the project, at some point comparing teachers favorably to Harry Potter. Look out for this one.
Below are some clips of his introduction and the Q & A following the film.

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