‘After Blue (Dirty Paradise)’ Review

Art house + sexy lesbians + sci-fi dystopia = cool, maybe?

You’re lying to yourself if you claim you can make out much of anything from After Blue. Director Bertrand Mandico’s newest is just as foreign when the credits roll as when it drops you in. On the bright side, it’s kind of like Xena: Warrior Princess, wherein everyone is stoned to hell and back and swaps spit.

Outcast Roxy (Paula Luna) is dubbed toxic by the women in her village, though you’ll never figure out why. One day on the beach, she discovers a woman-like being named Kate Bush (Agata Buzek)—and again, you’ll never figure out why she’s named after the English musician, but how about Stranger Things revitalizing her jamz, huh? Anyway, Roxy digs not-Kate Bush out of the sand. In an “oh, geez!” moment, not-Kate Bush starts killing people. Both Roxy and her cowardly mother Zora (Elina Löwensohn) are banished by the village elites until they can prove they’ve killed not-Kate Bush and bring back her corpse as proof.

The plot is thin in After Blue, but its world is fantastic: A kind of radioactive Candyland where only the women survive and, for some reason, phallic symbols stand in for lollipop trees and such. Sad, then, that the mesmerizing aesthetic doesn’t save it from frustrating momentum. Mandico (The Lost Boys) has crafted a lesbian fever dream in the style of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle, replacing those gay pressure-cooked piers for a faraway planet where the men have died out and the women reign over a tribal dystopian paradise. Some moments feel like a tale spake by Homer, while others feel more like the whole thing is gearing up for a Howard Hawks-like Western. Yet it never allows itself to become much of anything, as it’s far too invested in its coolness; there’s a strong chance Mandico never intended his film to represent anything more than mere feelz.

He’s the type of director who has long been an advocate for “feel, don’t think!” cinema, and you’ll know how dedicated he is to that stance by viewing just three minutes of anything he’s ever done. After Blue is more of the same, but with a color palette so evocative it’s a shame the script seems to have been scribbled on the back of a coffee receipt. Its main connecting thread is that every few minutes poor Roxy breaks down sobbing because her mother told her not to have sex with a weird tentacle beast. We’ve all been there, Roxy. After Blue is built for midnight screenings in some dingy-yet-beloved cinema populated by film school undergraduates. But hey, there are worse fates for movies. Cinematography nuts can go wild. Everyone else can just shrug.


+Dang it looks cool

-30 min too long; repetitive

After Blue

Directed by Mandico

With Luna and Löwensohn

CCA Cinema, NR, 129 min

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.