After Blue (Paradise Sale)
Written & Directed by Bertrand Mandico
Starring Paula Luna, Elina Löwensohn, Agata Buzek
In the realm of Science Fiction films, the “Sci-Fi Western” is perhaps the least made of the sub-genre. It is all too rare an occurrence when filmmakers make a film that blends the two genres. The most artistically successful being Peter Hyams’ 1981 outer space remake of 1952’s “High Noon” and the 1973 Michael Crichton classic “Westworld”.
Those two films, and others such as 1982’s “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann”, 1985’s undervalued “Space Rage”, and especially 1980’s “Battle Beyond the Stars” (another remake of “Seven Samurai”), all gave their space adventures a Western slant.
Now comes Bertrand Mandico’s ultra-unique “After Blue (Paradis Sale)”.
Written by the director, the film is very much a part of the “Sci-Fi Western” universe but one that is more Fellini and Jodorowsky rather than John Ford.
In a bizarre future, humans have abandoned a dying Earth. They have built a new colony on After Blue, a savage planet in the far reaches of space where the atmosphere allows only women to survive.
Roxana (Paula Luna) is the daughter of Zora (Elina Löwensohn), the community’s hairdresser. One day she frees a violent criminal with the fun name of Kate Bush (Agata Buzek). Roxana did not know Bush was a criminal when she freed her but for the action, she and her mother are almost kicked out of the colony. Their only hope is to bring the killer in to be punished. The two women set out over the land as a mother/daughter team of bounty hunters.
The planet (and the film) takes on a grotesque and hallucinatory feel. There is nothing safe about the lands they travel and the two learn quickly that they must learn to embrace their violent natures if they are to survive.
The world created by director Mandico and his cinematographer Pascale Granel is a phantasmagoria of grotesquely intoxicating landscapes and Jean Rollin-tinged eroticism. Their creation of the lands and the people who inhabit them have a hypnotic and sensual power and exist as a visual representation of the defiance of the expectations of gender roles in genre films.
In the film’s visual designs, Mandico expertly blends different genres into his strange tale. Viewers will recognize the askew Fairy Tale essence of the story woven into the grit of the Western and the bizarre Science Fiction aura.
Pierre Desprats’ synth-heavy compositions take their cues from the artfully creepy work of Italian composer Riz Orlanti while infusing soft and beautiful chamber pieces throughout. His score is as disturbing, twisted, and erotic as the film’s imagery.
The director plays by no rules and directs the film with a wild abandon and freedom that more filmmakers should envy. Characters use strange creatures to masturbate and bathe in the goo of monsters. Pubic hair has eyes, hair grows on women’s necks, and every character (be they human or creature) is almost always aroused.
In a nice touch, all weapons are named with the brands of Gucci and Chanel. This is the filmmaker’s not-so-sly skewering of our obsession with and fetishization of guns.
I liked Bertrand Mandico’s cinematic acid trip very much. His work is not so much something to see but to experience. It is a film of unique ideas both visually and in its screenplay and is a completely entrancing work of substance. If viewers can vibe with its rhythms, surreal pleasures await.
“After Blue (Paradis Sale)” is a film of purposeful excess. It is kitsch, it is sexy, and it is visually poetic. For some it will be trash. For others, Art. For all, it will be the most unique viewing experience of 2021.
NR, 127 Minutes, Ecce Films, Ha My Productions