Judge Daryl Loomis drinks from a bowl like a cat.
Nothing looks more like a circle than two circles.
Now Eden and After is my kind of French art film. Full of sex, violence, and insane, non-linear storytelling, this is the sort of thing that really gets me going. This is in contrast to The Man Who Lies, the previous film from writer/director Alain Robbe-Grillet which, even though I claim to have affection for it, I can't really come up with anything positive to say about it. This follow up is right up my alley, though, so let's get to business.
Violette (Catherine Jourdan, The Girl on a Motorcycle) and her friends spend all their time at either university or across the street at a club called Eden. A strange older man named Duchemin (Pierre Zimmer, Le Deuxieme Souffle) comes into the club one day with a little game he wants to play with these kids. After treating them all to some bondage games, he has them take what he calls "fear powder." Soon, they are hallucinating coming up with their own sexy time, when Violette is (maybe) transported to Tunisia. There, she meets her friends, but they're all different and they turn on her. They're looking for a picture, but she claims to know nothing, so they torture her to get the information.
Eden and After is a bizarre, non-linear movie that is often elusive and confusing, but it's also a seriously gorgeous film. Color filmmaking suits Robbe-Grillet's visual style much better than black and white. This is a feast of primary colors, dominated by reds and whites, with touches of blue and yellow in the first half, with those coming more to the forefront during the time in Tunisia, which features truly gorgeous location photography by Igor Luther (The Tin Drum).
In addition to color, there is some amazing design in this movie. The Eden location is a real club in Paris that features these movable walls, which allows for different sized room in practice, but for the movie, makes the place claustrophobic and confusing. This feeling commences from the first moments, in which Violette is assaulted for the first of a few times. It may be the first of many games these kids are playing, but she doesn't seem to know that, and it's easy to feel her fear as walls move, revealing another person to chase her, only to get cornered by another closing wall.
Violette, overall, is treated pretty shabbily during Eden and After, but it's definitely a showcase for Catherine Jourdan, who may not have been the most experienced or nuanced actress, but she's a mesmerizing presence on screen. She alternates between playing these games with her friends and being tortured by them (with deadly scorpions, no less); regardless of what's happening to her, she's great to watch throughout.
Eden and After is a far more sexualized movie than Robbe-Grillet's previous work. It would foreshadow what he would make down the road, but it's put to best use here. The sex and violence are always intertwined and always compellingly shot. None of it is all that graphic, but it lends an extra bit of surrealism to this already strange movie. For me, this is the best of Robbe-Grillet's work. It's his most intriguing and beautiful movie, if not his most accomplished.
Kino Lorber and Redemption Films brings Eden and After to home video with a fine Blu-ray release. The 1.66:1/1080p image looks excellent, with the color saturation next to perfect. Reds and blues are thick and bright, while the heavy use of whites are presented bright and clean. There are next to no blemishes on the print, and the whole thing is full of fine detail and totally beautiful. The mono track is better than expected, as well. It's just a mono track, but with sound being as important a factor to the movie as the color, it holds up very well. No noise, nice dynamic range, clear dialog, and sound effects that are nice and loud. On a technical level, this is one of the better discs with the Redemption label that I've reviewed.
Extras are a short but decent lot. It starts with an entirely different cut of the film, edited for television in 1972 called N. Took the Dice. It runs 79 minutes and was recut for content, but also is made into a more linear, less confusing story. It's not nearly as interesting as the original cut, but it is a nice artifact to have. The other major extra on the disc is a 30 minute interview taken from the same source as the interview on the Blu-ray for The Man Who Lies. Again, it's an excellent discussion, with detailed talk about the production, his intentions on the artistic side, and the film's very mixed reaction. A set of trailers is the only other extra on the disc.
Eden and After is my favorite of Robbe-Grillet's films, mostly because it's so interesting to watch on a formal level. With the beauty of the film being more apparent than ever with this strong Blu-ray release, this disc is an easy recommendation, at least for those with the patience for the French arthouse.
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