Movie Review: A French Sci-fi Western Set on a Planet of Lesbians — “After Blue (Dirty Paradise)”

There’s a secret language shared by filmmakers and critics, words and phrases that connect an “I’m not sure what I meant” with “I really don’t what know to make of it” when it comes to movies.

The code phrases turn up in reviews and “director’s statements” on obscurant, trippy, diffuse and sometimes pointless films — “Fever dream,” “tactile,” and yes “trippy” give away the game. Nobody, including the person what made it, has a firm grasp on what it’s all about.

“After Blue,” the latest from Bertrand Mandico of “The Wild Boys,” is an oddly repellent, unfathomably thick homage to the “Barbarella/Zardoz” era of filmed sci-fi. A French lesbian Western with futuristic muskets and horses and desert and beaches and a civilization in decline, it’s got nudity and lurid, dank settings and an almost all-female cast — the planet in question, an Earth colony named “After Blue,” had its menfolk die out.

What it doesn’t have is a coherent story, anything that would drive the narrative and draw the viewer into the filmmakers’ universe, his “fever dream.” It’s all eye candy — 1970s vintage.

Perhaps the key to the picture is the name of the buried-up-to-her-neck outcast who promises to grant the young woman, Roxy (Paula Luna) “three desires” (wishes) if she digs her out.

The armed punk girls “Toxic” Roxy hangs with are all about the cruelty, making threats and then running off to frolic in the surf, leaving the outcast to her fate.

But Roxy is intrigued, and maybe it’s the mostly-buried woman’s (Agata Buzek) name that changes her mind.

“Kate Bush.”

Seriously, that’s what Mandico calls this genie/witch with a (Roxy and we discover) “third eye” where her vagina should be.

The screenplay is filled with “Militia” women hunting the outcast, and others — including Roxy’s hairdresser-mom, Zora (Elina Löwensohn) — asking “How could you dig up Kate Bush?” and “Where IS Kate Bush?” and “What does Kate Bush LOOK like?”

“She’s tall, with one hairy arm.” And she kind of rocks Roxy’s world…until the next peak experience comes along, anyway.

The real Kate Bush, a big deal in British art rock for decades whose biggest U.S. exposure might have been the time Eric Idle got her booked as musical guest when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1978, will no doubt be amused at hearing her name taken in vain scores of times.

Of course, she’d have to shrug off the “You must kill Kate Bush, in your own way” remarks and the like.

The sets and the bloody-minded search for Kate Bush/venture into emptiness vibe of “After Blue” may take those familiar with its antecedents right back to the early ’70s, which was apparently Mandico’s primary goal.

Cryptic interviews/conversations are rendered in gauzy static shots or dull, diffuse voice over narration.

I got nothing out of its vague “history” connecting people with the Earthly origins of their DNA — Polish, Russian, and Scots-accented English are heard, while most of the many lesbians here speak French (with subtitles).

Roxy isn’t finding answers as she and her Mom set out on their quest, with Mom now an armed hairdresser running out of patience with daughter.

“Kate Bush kills daughters, not mothers! Get that through your big fat bleached skull!”

That’s a hairdresser who has crossed the line and broken the code.

But as these folks wander the wastelands, comment on the state of their horses and stop for dips in DIY hot tubs, the pointlessness of it all vexes and irks so much that you almost want Mandico to cross some sort of PC line when Roxy’s “first man” enters the picture.

Almost. But no.

The pointlessness is the point, and there’s zero entertainment value in that, no matter how many critics throw up their hands and use “fever dream” as a reason to cop out, give it a thumb’s up, and move on.

Rating: unrated, violence, sex, gruesome images, nudity

Cast: Paula Luna, Elina Löwensohn, Vimala Pons, Michaël Erpelding and Agata Buzek

Credits: Scripted and directed by Bertand Mandico. An Altered Innocence release.

Running time: 2:08

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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