2021, 128 mins. 58 secs.
Directed by Bertrand Mandico
Starring Elina Löwensohn, Paula Luna, Vimala Pons, Agata Buzek, Michaël Erpelding
Altered Innocence (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
On the heels of his outlandish and visually stunning gender-bender The Wild Boys, director and frequent M83 collaborator Bertrand Mandico returned with an even more outré sophomore feature: After Blue (Dirty Paradise), a colorful sci-fi art fantasia featuring one of the most hilariously named villains in cinematic history. Created entirely with in-camera practical effects and jammed with more colors than your eyeballs can handle, it's a psychedelic experience unlike any other and best enjoyed late at night when it can just sweep you along without any resistance.
On the colonized planet After Blue long after the demise of Earth, only women now survive and exist in a nomadic culture when they aren't busy taming the wild hair that grows all over their bodies. Young, bleach-blonde Roxy (Luna) comes across a mysterious woman named Kate Bush (Buzek) -- yes, really, Kate Bush -- buried up to her neck and promising to grant her wishes if Roxy helps her escape. Roxy asks to be rid of the bullies who are making her life miserable, so upon her release, Kate Bush reciprocates by killing all of them. As it turns out, the escapee is a dangerous assassin and must be hunted down by Roxy and her mother, Zora (Löwensohn), in a combination bounty hunting and vision quest expedition that feels like an escalating peyote trip.
Complete with visions of reanimated corpses, dreamy electronic music, tribal magic, and tons of glitter and fog, After Blue (Dirty Paradise) is a striking descendant of '70s fantastic epics like Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe, Louis Malle's Black Moon, and John Boorman's Zardoz, with a little bit of Ridley Scott's Legend for good measure. The dreamy approach won't be to everyone's taste (especially at over two hours!), but the all-female environment and insanely opulent visuals make it a surefire future cult hit in the making.
Apparently Altered Innocence had a lot of confidence in the film as well since they gave it a fairly saturated touring national roll out in the U.S. before issuing a Blu-ray special edition, available with standard packaging or a limited 2,000-unit special limited edition spot gloss and embossed slipcover designed by Sister Hyde. The image quality is as immaculate as you'd expect for a film of this vintage, up their with their stellar work on The Wild Boys and featuring enough vibrant compositions to make for a solid demo disc. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 French track (with a bit of English thrown in) sounds excellent as well with lots of surround activity, and optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided. On the extras side, "J'ai tué Kate Bush" (12m49s) is a dialogue-free assemblage of outtake footage from the film (sometimes entire scenes) with a fresh score by regular composer Pierre Desprats, while the 2020 Mandico short film “The Return of Tragedy” (24m33s) could best be described as the director's take on a police procedural. Here we get multiple, very bizarre perspectives on a crime scene at which two cops investigate an afternoon outdoor party where a woman's gigantic eviscerated stomach is floating above her. David Patrick Kelly gets to monologue like crazy as cult leader "Katebush" (yep, there's that name again) with his sidekick Tragedy (Löwensohn) the still-speaking "victim" in question. This one is much closer to Troma in its aesthetic approach but still has the filmmaker's cracked sense of humor in abundance. Also included are the original U.S. trailer and bonus trailers for The Islands of Yann Gonzalez, Arrebato, The Wild Boys, and Jack Be Nimble, while an insert booklet features a text interview with Mandico.
Reviewed on October 19, 2022