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[Fantastic Fest ’21] ‘After Blue (Dirty Paradise)’ review: Visceral sci-fi film will confound and impress

Keep running up that hill.

After Blue (Dirty Paradise) is an endurance test on a number of levels. The runtime is over two hours, which is fine for a Marvel movie, but not something seen often from independent films. Along with its length, the story is a bizarre and surreal experience that will take the audience on a wild ride. The story focuses on a teenager named Roxy who finds a woman named Kate Bush (no, not that one) buried in the sand. When Roxy (called “Toxic” by her friends) frees her, Kate goes on a killing spree. Toxic and her mother are banished from their village and told to kill Kate Bush.

The film’s unique look stands out in the opening seconds. The first few seconds have an almost waterpainted style to it. After Blue is filled with muted purples, pinks, and yes, blues that place the audience in the proper setting. (After Blue is a planet people have colonized after Earth’s demise.) There are a variety of different set pieces that look otherworldly and help set the feeling of being trapped in the unknown.

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There is also great costume designs in After Blue. Painter Veronika Sternburg is the highlight. Her outfits give her the look of a wealthy outlaw. The creatures are a mixed bag. At best, they look like something out of a classic Dr. Who episode. This is not necessarily bad, but it is a stark contrast to the imagination that seeps through the rest of the film. Nonetheless, there is a charm to them

[Fantastic Fest '21] 'After Blue (Dirty Paradise)' review: Visceral sci-fi film will confound and impress

The script is charged with a sexual energy that permeates almost everything that is done. It is not an act or lust nor is it tied to violence, though there is some of both. For the most part, sex is just a part of what happens. It is not heightened by passion or devalued to its most base level; it is just the nature of things, like eating or breathing. In an interesting touch, the fact that planet is inhospitable to men plays a relatively small role. So much so, that most will quickly forget why the cast is composed of women.

Sternburg is the best character in After Blue. Along with her stylish look, she is also given the best lines. She constantly seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. This is mainly due to the fact that the other characters are not well developed. They have some basic traits,  but little else. Confusing matters is that Roxy’s motivations seem to change each scene. It seems like she is supposed to be conflicted, but that never really comes across.

As strange as the film is, it follows traditional rules of storytelling. It is similar to one of the cycles in The Canterbury Tales or a television show that has one premise, but each week is a self-contained story. Roxy and her mother have to kill Kate Bush, they get sidetracked by someone with questionable motives, then they overcome the situation. Of all the odd things that happen in After Blue, that may be the weirdest of all.

Fantastic Fest takes place from September 23 – September 30. Check out AIPT’s ongoing coverage.

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