After Blue REVIEW – The Next Stage of the Acid Western
After Blue is the latest feature by Bertrand Mandico (French experimental filmmaker, co-author of IncoherenceManifesto), and it’s a fever dream.
The film opens with stunning science fiction space images and an introduction to the world. As we learn that humanity fled the Earth’s atmosphere after it died, a voiceover switches from French to a variety of languages. While the remaining women created diverse communities on the planet, based on their Earth nationalities and other factors, these communities are not closed to one another nor the outside world.
The story opens when Roxy (Paula Luna), known as “Toxic” by her friends, liberates criminal Kate Bush (Agata Bizeck), who had been buried to the ground in the sands of no woman’s country. Roxy kills Roxy’s friend, makes out briefly with Roxy and then disappears. Roxy tells her community that Roxy freed the criminal and she returns. Zora Lowensohn (Zora’s mother) is assigned to track down and kill Kate Bush.
This setup, despite the name, isn’t all that unique in sci-fi westerns. It simply puts an archetypical western bounty hunt story into a new setting. The story is secondary to the artistic experience of the new world and the ideas it explores. Mandico and his crew create amazing visions for After Blue. Each frame is doused with at least one color light. This evokes the tinting of early film and the bright colors of gialli as well as the neon hues of recent films such the John Wick series or the more recent work of Nicolas Winding Refn.
While the creature effects recall the horrors of the 1980s, they are also quite original. After Blue’s indigenous humanoid “Indiams”, whose faces are surrounded by crystals, has large openings that are filled with crystals. Production design is able to alternate between the minimum necessary to make a scene appear otherworldly (adding some oddly shaped rocks to a beach) or creating a world that looks like Hayao Miyazaki’s more disturbing images.
Although the costumes lack in coverage, they are not lacking in style. Again, the production design borrows heavily from Mad Max and the iconic black coat with wide brimmed cap of Meiko Kaji’s Female Prisoner Scorpion. The focus is on the visual pleasure and not the function. The film’s score, composed by Pierre Desprats, elevates the soundscape in nearly every moment. It can be heard through a shimmery atmosphere or pulse-pounding bass beats.
The plot follows the Incoherence manifesto and Roxy and her mother encounter different people (and sentient-non-people) along their journey. This allows the film to engage with a variety dialogues about art, justice and ownership. These chances meetings build on Roxy’s initial interaction with Kate Bush. Zora (Vimala Pons), a highly attractive artist Sternberg (Zora) and Roxy form a relationship. Roxy engages in what some may consider too creative for live-action sex with an Android. Sternberg’s whole persona, even when it’s not on screen, exudes sexuality, both for herself and others.