Still thinking about Dune, but wish it was more colorful, weird and gay? Look no further than Bertrand Mandico’s (The Wild Boys) sci-fi epic After Blue (Dirty Paradise) that creates an erotic, bizarre dreamworld using practical camera effects.
To make complete sense of this film would be a foolhardy endeavor. Coming from a director who pioneered the incoherent cinema movement, appreciating arthouse films and excusing a wandering plot are necessary to enjoy this movie. Not to be bogged down with a singular genre, this film can best be described as trippy, practical visuals and transgressive eroticism wrapped in a sci-fi western hero’s quest.
The film begins with abstract, colorful closeups filled with glitter of the protagonist named Roxy (but the village girls call her Toxic) played by Paula Luna. Her voiceover explains that they live on the planet After Blue, where the atmosphere causes hair to grow all over their bodies and the men died because their hair grew internally so they have to be artificially inseminated to procreate. If that sounds like a premise you can even remotely enjoy, you can probably get behind this movie.
Roxy wanders the beach as three girls alternate between bullying her and making out with each other. She stumbles upon a head sticking out of the sand, and discovers that it is a woman named Kate Bush (Agata Buzek) buried up to her head because she’s being punished for being evil. She tells Roxy that if she frees her, she will grant her three wishes. Roxy frees her, and she swiftly murders the three girls and causes havoc across the land. Roxy and her mother, the village hairdresser, are expelled from their community unless they murder Kate Bush, thus starting the journey.
Some other bizarre things that somehow make it into the story: a sexual situation turning into a tentacle attack, guns named after fashion brands, nipples oozing goo and marbles, and spooky stylized ghost sequences.
While it is an epic tale, don’t expect to find much of a coherent plot here. The internal logic of the plot is more abstract, like being on hallucinogens. The director gained notoriety after his previous film, The Wild Boys, which is equally as colorful, artsy and transgressive.
In the style of Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 movement, Mandico penned the incoherence manifesto, the mission of which is to celebrate cinema as a chaotic art form that should not be held down by a specific style or plot conventions, and that they must be filmed on expired film stock and use only practical camera effects. If this film is his manifesto in practice, it’s easy to see how it could be either successful or not. Many aspects of the surreal and abstract elements work and reflect a talented filmmaker, but the loose and incomplete plot could be a turn-off for many.
Outside of that, this film is a visual feast to enjoy. This alien apocalyptic setting shines with its dreamy colors, bizarre set pieces and grandiose costumes and makeup that complete this otherworldly location.
The actors similarly compliment this bizarre space dystopia. They dominate the scenery, interacting with each other with animalistic intensity and an overabundance of lust. In one moment two people are fighting, the next they are making out.
Overall the film unapologetically supports the pursuit of female desire. With its unique and artistic style of filmmaking including extended sequences featuring beautiful colored lighting, glitter, feathers and nudity, the film comes off more like poetry than a movie.
To top it all off, a synth score completes the mood of the film. Stylically, this film rises above with its colorful excess and sheer filmmaking ingenuity. Unfortunately, the plot cannot support the fantastical sets housing it. While it starts off promising, the second half seems to meander around in the fog like the characters in the film.
With a grand adventure like The Odyssey or Dune but much weirder, this arthouse film has a marvelously skillful art direction but lacks the story to match it.
Check out the trailer below.