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Michael Rogers owns this movie.

You may have seen stuff like Beyond the Black Rainbow before. It’s best described as a head-trip science fiction love letter to not only the 80’s as an era, but also the 60’s-80’s stretch of strange, challenging “weird” films. There’s a bit of Altered States or 2001: A Space Odyssey in here. You’ll also be right at home if you enjoy your “weird” Cronenberg (Scanners or Videodrome) or even more contemporary stuff like Donnie Darko or Enter the Void. Like many those movies, Beyond the Black Rainbow is an unsettling and discombobulating mixture of tension, atmosphere, mystery, and the completely fucking surreal. You never know quite what to expect as it unfolds, but you mostly end up with provocative imagery, drawn-out scenes that are master classes in creating atmosphere, as well as quite a few of those scares that really belong in the realm of the bizarre: fright-inducing because they are alien, unexplained, teased out to perfection, and left to linger in your consciousness like a nightmare.

The first film of Panos Cosmatos (and it’s his real name, I guess!) is also a Canadian one. It was shot in and around Vancouver and showcases a talented young fella who definitely learned from his Cronenberg. Anyone who likes Cronenberg’s classic stuff is going to love Beyond the Black Rainbow and it’s also custom-tailored for those who like a little weird in their genre stuff. I’d also tentatively say that Lynch fans would love this movie. This is also what I’d say Lost looks like when allowed to plunge all the way into horror and the new-age retro-futurist trappings of the Dharma Initiative. Otherwise, you might be in for a pleasant surprise here but more likely this movie is going to be pure, high-octane nightmare fuel.

Part of the selling point on this strange and exciting little movie is going to be just how strange and exciting it is. As such, I’m not going to be shy about spoiling some vagaries of the plot. If the above is enough to get you interested to see this (and if it isn’t, just take my word for it ffs), then I’d implore you to go into this as ignorant as possible. Which means stop reading this review! Read the rest of this entry »

I can’t believe this movie was on my radar for so long without me having watched it. Well, I finally did, and it blew my tentative anticipation away. Mr. Nobody is an existential masterpiece, effortlessly blending together complex philosophical themes, entrancing emotional odysseys, and what seems like a dozen versions of the same character to create a pseudo-Science Fiction film that is a cousin to many, but an imitation of none.

The plot, such as it is, navigates layers of fantasy, memory, and narrative reality to tell the story of Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto), an 118 year old man about to die in the year 2092. He happens to be the last living mortal human, and his story is of great interest to everyone. Especially since very little is known about him and there’s no record of his life. Is Nemo the fabrication of a younger version of himself, who writes science fiction as a teen? Is Old Nemo the real one, the point from which all this emanates? The film doesn’t tell you and like whether or not Cobb is dreaming in Inception, it doesn’t really matter. You can believe the story about the Angels of Oblivion and Nemo’s ability to predict the future, or you can chalk it up to cycles of expansion and entropy. The film invites both metaphysical and hard science foundations on which to explore the themes.

It’s very difficult to write a review for this film. I almost need to watch it again. I can say that it’s a mistake to approach it as a “puzzle movie” or one that needs to be “figured out”. A lot of people will go into it like that. They’ll wonder, as the young journalist wonders, which of the stories Nemo Nobody tells is the “true” one. As Nemo himself says when confronted with this, “Every path is the right path.” which is to say that life doesn’t have a “true version” but can pick itself up and carry itself off in any direction imaginable.

It’s as much to examine our tendency toward focusing on big, sweeping moments of change than on just how chaotic every single moment really is, that causes Jaco Van Dormael to use three specific points in Nemo’s life as the internal reference points through which we can examine regret, choice, and chance. The film acknowledges that every moment is another chance for everything to change, the specific points of time that have so impacted Nemo are such because they involve formative relationships with his parents and with the three possible women he could spend his life with. It is especially in these relationships, which are all varied and reflect on the man Nemo could become, that we understand why Old Nemo can’t settle on one version. Imagined, predicted, or somehow lived… all three possibilities (and even more variances in each) lead Nemo, and the viewer, down a different path.

The suggestion is that whatever we choose, life is going to happen to us. That seems simplistic but the film is smart enough to tackle the choice vs. chance question. Otherwise you might be left with a tangled web of “is this determined or not?” which is sort of the point of the Angels of Oblivion/Precognitive thing. In other words, the film deals with the choice vs. chance binary in the same way Nemo deals with the question of which life is the true life: the only viable move is to not move. Which is kind of like taking the third option, I guess, as evidenced by 9 year old Nemo who runs off into the country rather than choosing Father or Mother.

Anyway, you need to see this movie. I can’t properly review it. It’s the kind of thing you have to sit down and explore with someone and I was dumb enough to watch it alone. The only other thing I want to say is that philosophically rich stuff like this only comes around every so often. Not to mention that the film, while dense, is very entertaining and also funny in a detached sort of way. It looks good, every performance is moving, and it will leave you feeling uplifted and hungry for life.

See it.

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