Bertrand Mandico’s new film After Blue is a sci-fi head trip that is going to catch the interest of some viewers, while leaving others feeling dried out and bored. It’s a bold effort, to be sure. A drug-fueled fever dream of a film that aims to recapture the strangest of the strange of 70’s science fiction. In some aspects, it’s a success. It has a wild color palette and style that is visually arresting, but as a story, the film fails to pull itself together enough to form a cohesive narrative that will keep most audiences interested.
When humans made the Earth too toxic for habitation, they fled to a far-off planet they dubbed After Blue. Men quickly died out, unable to adapt to the atmosphere of the planet. Women continued to thrive through artificial insemination, living in small, close-knit communities. One day, teenaged Roxy (Paula Luna), happens upon a woman buried up to her neck in sand. Intrigued, Roxie frees her, to the dismay of the rest of her tribe. This woman, dubbed Kate Bush (Agata Buzek) was found by her own tribe to be unworthy and was buried in the sand as punishment. Roxie committed a great sin by freeing her, and to atone, Roxie and her mother Zora (Elina Lowensohn) are banished until they are able to right the wrong and kill the infamous Kate Bush.
That’s the set up, anyway. Once Zora and Roxie set off on their epic quest, the errand goes from epic to wandering in a few short scenes. It’s set up as a fantasy Western, but Mandico seems less interested in building out that framework and more interested in languishing in the acid trip visuals. It’s a beautiful film, but the beauty wears thin before long. As much as the 70s style and effects entrance the eye and hide the modest budget, the story does nothing to build upon them and each scene slowly trods into the next as Zora and Roxie meet new characters, attend lavish banquets, have multiple erotic encounters,talk endlessly about their need to take down the feared Kate Bush, and spend little time actually making good on that promise.
What the film lacks in plot, it really tries to make up for in visual style. Mandico bathes every shot in colorful lighting and art director Thomas Salabert stretched a limited budget far beyond its means in creating a planet that has very little in common with Earth and looks like something out of Heavy Metal. Geometric rock formations line the road on Zora and Roxie’s journey, strange plants abound and every natural element is thoroughly coated in glitter.
Mandico doesn’t attempt much in the way of story-telling, letting the visual elements take center stage. There’s little in the way of character development, and though the story seems to set out as something of a coming of age tale for the young Roxie, it doesn’t really develop past that set-up. Which might work if the film was shorter, but given its 2 hour plus runtime, it feels like it is just treading water until Roxie and Zora make it to the next location, which, though stylish, looks more or less the same as the last.
This film will definitely play to a very specific subsection of sci-fi fans. It’s weird, it’s trippy, it’s a technicolor kaleidoscope of light, shadow and slow, dreamy camerawork. But the majority of viewers are going to get tired of its tedium. The colorful lighting, the soft focus and the glitter are all engaging at first, but the shine soon begins to lose its luster.
Movie Score: 2.5/5