Y’all, I LOVE that we’re in the middle of a Kate Bush renaissance! AFTER BLUE, Directed by Bertrand Mandico, beat Stranger Things by about a year – but since this film is just now emerging from its festival circuit into theaters, I know ST will get all the credit (to be fair, ST plays her music; AB only uses her name but STILL).
In this erotic-queer-apocolyptic-scif-fi-fantasy-witchy-horror epic, survivors from a dead planet Earth inhabit a planet called After Blue (Dirty Paradise) infused with neon colors, strange fish-humanoid “pets,” and lots and lots of drippy goo. There are many very cool things about this planet, but the coolest thing of all is that Earth’s men have died, so the populace is all women.
It’s on this planet’s surface that we’re introduced to Roxy (Paula Luna), aka Toxic, a lonely teen tormented by her “friends,” and confused about who she is and where she fits in. Roxy discovers a mysterious woman named Katarzyna Buszowska (Agata Buzek) – Kate Bush for short – buried up to her neck on the sandy beach. Begging to be freed, Kate promises to grant Roxy three wishes if she helps her. Overwhelmed by her desire for the woman, Roxy frees her, at which point Kate Bush immediately kills her three companions and leaves Roxy on the beach, helpless and frustrated.
Turns out Kate Bush is a well-known assassin who was buried in the sand as punishment and was meant to die when the tide came in, and now the coven of women in charge of the planet are pissed at both Roxy and her hairdresser* mother, Zora (Elina Löwensohn – side note: if you’ve never seen AMATEUR by Hal Hartley, see it now!). As a result they banish Zora and Roxy to the planet’s wild outer regions, with instructions to kill Kate Bush.
Zora is horrified by this missive, as she’s never killed anyone and has no idea how to go about tracking an assassin, but Roxy is exhilarated by the freedom and exploration – not to mention the thrilling idea of running into Kate again, who has spurred an intense sexual awakening in her.
Along the way they run into seductive recluse Sternberg (Vimala Pons) and her androgynous android, Olgar 2; twin assassins Climax & Chiara; and a whole lotta weird, alien fish creatures who also seem fuel sexy thoughts. Roxy is also being haunted by her three dead friends, who can’t leave her alone until Kate Bush is vanquished.
Honestly, what’s a sexually-confused teen to do? Give into her desires for a queen bitch assassin and live with being haunted and banished forever? Or help her mother kill Kate Bush and return to her home where things will continue to be soooo BOR-ING?
There’s no question I adored literally everything about this queer, French fantasy! Lovely neon 1980’s aesthetics on 35mm; a synthy soundtrack by Pierre Desprats; costuming with big-brimmed witchy hats, long skirts, and furs; steamy Lesbian sex; hilarious naming conventions (all the weapons are named after fashion houses); amazing set pieces and practical F/X, and glitter, glitter, and MORE GLITTER. It’s mind-blowingly entertaining.
*The hairdressing, in this case, is all about shaving women’s neck hair, which is apparently a dangerous side effect of moving to this planet as the hairs can become ingrown and strangle them. INTERESTING COMMENTARY ON BODY HAIR, BERTRAND!