Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In short: Black Rainbow (1989)

Is there an official explanation for what happened with Mike Hodges at the beginning of the 80s? Sure, we can explain Flash Gordon with the kicking powers of the Horrible Boot of Camp (a creature I can only imagine being drawn by Jack Kirby), but why is the rest of Hodges (small) output of that decade equally messy and confused, and - alas - not equally entertaining? I don't dare to take a guess.

Anyhow, Black Rainbow is pretty much what you can expect from the director in that decade; in the spirit of the film's non-structure, let me describe it in a single, ridiculously long sentence with lots of parentheses, for that's exactly how it plays out. Black Rainbow is written with a lack of coherence that makes most giallos look logical (let me get that straight, a medium nobody in a position of authority believes foretells the identity of a murderer, so the bad guys send a professional killer after her, whose success will be the best way to ensure people will believe what she said?), sees Hodges frequently preach at the film's audience through the mouths of his characters (and hey, Mr Hodges, sir, you can't let your medium criticize her public's willingness to believe in a better afterlife and give her actually working prophetic powers and still make a sensible argument), contains the sort of scenery-chewing performance you get when you tell Jason Robards to put out all the stops (if that's a plus or a minus depends on your love for Robards; mine was tested), has an ending that is probably supposed to be ambiguous but just looks as if the writer didn't have a clue about how to actually end the convoluted mess, is overloaded with narrative elements that just don't fit together and sure as hell don't have a function (it's a Southern Gothic, so there must be a mad dead mother and implications of incest in Rosanna Arquette's background, plus what's up with Tom Hulce's marriage? Now that I think about it, why is his character even in here, seeing as he doesn't do anything a newspaper headline couldn't), and annoys me personally with a handful of scenes that suggest that Hodges might have made a fantastic piece of (tourist-y) Southern Gothic here, if he'd just had used the precision and ability to be clear even when backstories and characters are complicated his 70s films demonstrated again and again.

As it stands, Black Rainbow is a highly interesting mess.

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