New in select theaters from Altered Innocence!
AFTER BLUE: DIRTY PARADISE (aka AFTER BLUE: PARADIS SALE, 2021)
Directed and written by Bertrand Mandico.
Starring Paula Luna, Elina Löwensohn, Vimala Pons, Agata Buzek, Michaël Erpelding, Mara Taquin, Claïna Clavaron, Pauline Lorillard, Claire Duburcq, Anaïs Thomas, Delphine Chuillot, Tamar Baruch, Camille Rutherford, Alexandra Stewart, Nathalie Richard, Tatjana Mladenovitch, Aurore Broutin, Iliana Zabeth
A young woman named Roxy (Paula Luna) ventures across the surface of a distant planet after the Earth was destroyed. The planet they found a home on can only support women and all of the men have died off having suffered from “hair growing on the inside of their bodies.” While attempting not to succumb to mistakes that destroyed their home world, the woman live a simple existence with no screens, technology, or chemistry and live a primitive life on this strange new world. But when Roxy frees a witch named Kate Bush (Agata Buzek) it threatens the peaceful balance the women have with the world around them. So, Roxy and her hairdresser mother Zora (SCHINDLER’S LIST’s Elina Löwensohn) scour the bizarre wilderness to find Kate Bush and take her out with their rifle named Gucci.
AFTER BLUE: DIRTY PARADISE is a wild one, to say the least. Director Bertrand Mandico has made a name for himself delivering fantastical imagery layered with gay themes, most recently in his film THE WILD BOYS, which follows a group of rowdy boys (all of them played by female actors) pursued by captors attempting to tame them. I haven’t seen that film, but it sounds interesting. Especially if it is as vivid and alien as AFTER BLUE is. The story is truly weird, but to cut through the crap, it’s just a story set where men no longer exist, and the women inseminate each other with what little sperm they have in order to keep reproducing. Mandico explains all of this in narration at the beginning, asking the viewer to open their mind and allow this fantasy to play out. In this culturally divided world, it’s most likely this will be difficult for some. But if you try to look past the political hot buttons, Mandico has crafted quite the other-worldly experience in this sci fi, fantasy, horror epic.
The imagery alone should attract many to AFTER BLUE. It’s glittery, yet muddy. Everything is filmed through a psychedelic neon hue, but it’s cast across a grimy looking landscape. Seeing these women drudge through this landscape reminded me of scooping my spoon through melted Neapolitan ice cream or Froot Loops that have been soaking in milk for too long. Mandico has gone out of his way to make this landscape different than anything that exists on our world, with reflective spots on trees, strange land masses, and multi-colored skylines. In many ways, it felt a lot like the foggy lens work used in Ridley Scott’s LEGEND, where fantastical creatures are lit with a grimy tint and captured through a smeared lens.
The story is strange as well. While they don’t want to use the tech that destroyed the world before, the women seem to have no problem brandishing guns, which Mandico labels with designer named like Gucci and Chanel. While this is a basic quest movie, many distractions occur along the way as Roxy and her mom run into an artist named Sternberg (Vimala Pons) and her blind, male android partner. Sternberg has all kinds of distractions for our wandering pair as she leads a life of decadence on the fringe of the established society, shunning most of their rules, getting drunk, and of course, doing some lesbianing.
AFTER BLUE is, shall we say, a very French film. It’s got a hell of a lot of nudity. At any given moment, any of the cast might just strip down and start frolicking for any old reason. Everyone also seems to be overwhelmingly horny in AFTER BLUE. Almost any time Roxy and her mom stop walking and are alone, they end up masturbating and sex seems to be the first and foremost thing on both of their minds as they kiss and screw anything that they run into.
I don’t know what Mandico is trying to say with this expansive fable. He truly is a visionary director in terms of the lengths he goes to create a tactile alien world with very few CG effects. All of the strangeness seems to be quite practical as they seem to be getting down and dirty with these often-nude beauties. The expansive sets are intricately detailed, quite impressive on what looks like a limited budget. The filmmaker seems to have created quite an amazing feast for the eyes.
Food for the brain? Ehhh. Not so sure about that. If this is some kind of gender study or feminist message like Mandico’s previous films, I don’t know if AFTER BLUE is communicating that very well. I doubt this is what Mandico is trying to say, but it seems the women in AFTER BLUE certainly aren’t thriving in a world without men. They’re dirty, lonely, poor, and horny as hell. There seems to be a problem with hair growth with these women that requires constant lasering. They smoke worms like blunts. Hell, I have no idea why the bad guy in this movie is named after singer-songwriter Kate Bush. It’s all beyond me, and I’m ok with that. Maybe the thematic heft went over my head or maybe Mandico is simply trying to tell a vivid fantasy that would fit nicely into any issue of HEAVY METAL Magazine. If you don’t mind the often meandering and strange plot, there sure is an awful lot of beautiful and surreal dream and nightmare imagery and atmosphere to soak in from AFTER BLUE.