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Eden and After
Written and directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet and released theatrically in 1970, Eden And After is one of the stranger films in the filmmaker's already bizarre filmography. The beginning of the film is centered around the appropriately titled Eden Café, a coffee house that attracts a crowd of art students who seem to appreciate its anti-social sensibilities. A sign hangs on the wall encouraging patrons to ‘drink blood' which contrasts with the Coca-Cola symbols painted across the glass windows. Here these students indulge their base desires and play ‘games' with names like ‘poison' and ‘rape.'
An interruption in their oddly ritualistic playtime occurs when a man known only as The Dutchman (Pierre Zimmer) enters the café intent on teaching them a game that he learned himself during his travels to Africa. First he has a one of the art students pick up deadly sharp shards of broken glass and from there, he proceeds to heal the ensuing wounds. After this he offers ‘fear powder' to a beautiful young woman named Violette (Catherine Jourdan). From here, she ‘travels' (or at least hallucinates as much) to Tunisia where she becomes involved in some S&M play with The Dutchman and various other Eden Café denizens involved alongside her…
Demonstrating the bold use of primary color and wild locations that would make his follow up to this film, The Successive Slidings Of Pleasure, so visually arresting, Robbe-Grillet is once again more concerned with atmosphere and imagery than with cohesive storytelling. The plot, which was admittedly and obviously influenced by Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, essentially follows Violette as she tumbles down what we take to be a drug induced rabbit hole where she quite literally meets otherworldly (albeit very human) inhabitants. It's an interesting and completely bizarre take on a story that most of us are already very familiar with, but with Robbe-Grillet putting his own artisanal spin on the proceedings, in many ways it's unlike anything made before or since.
The story starts off strangely enough, with the art students getting into all manner of debauchery in the café, but it's not until things shift to Tunisia (and the scenes that take place there were shot on location) where things really start to unfold. Catherine Jourdan is quite striking here. She's got a ridiculously strong sex appeal but so too does she carry about her a distinct aura of both nativity and fragility. The camera loves her and she's frequently framed in picture perfect compositions against backdrops of striking colors obviously chosen to compliment her costumes and her natural features. It works and it works well, the narrative structure letting us witness firsthand the ‘alien' encounters that take place once she's transported, in all their scintillating detail.
Ultimately, the film is just as strange as it sounds but it's absolutely worth seeing for fans of Robbe-Grillet's style or French arthouse filmmaking in general. It moves at a reasonably good pace, offering up quite a few memorable set pieces before the film finishes up and a few decent performances as well. It may very well be an exercise in style over substance but when it's as well done and intriguing as it is here, that's not necessarily a bad thing.The Blu-ray:
Eden And After looks great on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer presented in 1.66.1 widescreen (presumably the original aspect ratio for the movie as the framing looks fine here). Detail is excellent in close up shots and remains strong in medium and long distance shots as well. Color reproduction is very good here, the reds in the scene in which we see a certain character lay on a red box with the ‘Coca-Cola' logo evident in the top left and right of the frame is a good example of how the primaries really strike you here. Skin tones look perfect, they're nice and natural and never too hot and there's no evidence of noise reduction anywhere to be seen. Grain is very obvious throughout the movie but never to the point where it distracts and while a few minor specks pop up here and there, there isn't any serious print damage to complain about. Texture is strong, black levels are nice and deep and all in all the movie looks great on Blu-ray.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is a French language LPCM 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Generally speaking it's quite a good mix, if a bit thin at times. There are no issues to report with any trace of hiss or distortion. The dialogue is consistently clean and clear and there are no issues with the levels, which are properly balanced throughout. The score sounds quite good, it has a lot more depth than you might expect and it's a very effective piece of work that enhances the film a lot, particularly in the more sexually charged scenes. The English subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is an alternate version of the movie entitled N. Took The Dice. While this is essentially a recut version of the movie that Robbe-Grillet prepared for broadcast on French television a year after the movie played theatrically, there's more to this than just some of the racier bits being excised for home viewing. Things play out in a different order in this cut than they do in the original version and the flow of the picture and the way in which the story unfolds has a much more traditional, linear feel to it. This version of the movie runs seventy-nine minutes versus the ninety-eight minute version of the uncut film and it's also presented in 1.66.1 AVC encoded 1080p high definition with DTS-HD Mono French language audio and English subtitles.
Additionally, like the other Blu-ray releases in this line from Kino/Redemption thus far, the disc also contains an interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet that runs roughly thirty-one minutes in length. He goes into quite a bit of detail here about his writing process, the locations, the cast that participated on the film with him and many of the themes and ideas that he toys with in the narrative and in the visuals. Like a lot of the man's work, Eden And After leaves much open to interpretation but this interview helps to answer some of the questions viewers will surely have.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for two other Robbe-Grillet film's available from Redemption, a ‘2014 Promo Reel,' static menus and chapter selection options.Final Thoughts:
Eden And After is a strange movie, but you'd expect that from Alain Robbe-Grillet if you're even remotely familiar with his work. As is typical of the man's directorial output, the film deftly mixes fantasy and reality in impressively artistic ways and offers up some interesting kink and a few unexpected twists. It's certainly not a movie for all tastes but those who appreciate oddball arthouse efforts with a bit of sex appeal should enjoy it. The Blu-ray release is a good one, offering up two cuts of the movie in very nice condition with a revealing interview to go along with it. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.