Here’s another essay in sexy weirdness from French art house director Alain Robbe-Grillet. I’m not even sure quite where to begin with this one, which is probably as it should be. After all, its auteur co-wrote LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD, one of the greatest enigmatic movies of all time.
EDEN AND AFTER (L’EDEN ET APRES) begins with a disorientating credits sequence in which title cards of actors' names are repeated while other technical credits are read out over them. Then we find ourselves in an art installation-cum-coffee shop called Eden, where a group of maths students meet to pontificate, in a way that only French art house actors really can, about how boring life is and the meaninglessness of everything. To assuage their ennui they construct macabre role-playing games that include (surprise surprise) bizarre sexual activities as well.
One of these make-believe tableaux is the springboard for the second half of the film, which takes its central character of Violette (Catherine Jourdan) and details her journey through a world of the strange and sexy, played out against a Tunisian backdrop. Along the way we get to see many familiar Robbe-Grillet tropes - attractive ladies put in cages, being chained up, being blindfolded, and some fun with broken glass. As with some of his other movies, such as TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS, the line between reality and fantasy gets so blurred that it’s impossible to tell which is which, and I suspect that’s very much the point. Other reviews have likened EDEN AND AFTER to Alice in Wonderland written by the Marquis de Sade and that’s actually as good a description as any. What I would say is that, while I didn’t understand all of it, I still found it an immensely worthwhile and rewarding viewing experience.
Like the other movies in the BFI’s box set, EDEN AND AFTER comes with an introduction from Catherine Robbe-Grillet, a trailer, an interview with Frederic Taddei, and a commentary by Tim Lucas, who once again proves that he’s absolutely the best man for a job like this.
So yes, I liked EDEN AND AFTER. There just isn’t enough weird, enigmatic and perhaps occasionally impenetrable art house cinema around these days, certainly not featuring gorgeous girls, blood, and lots of running around with knives. If you’re getting the BFI box set I’d recommend you start with either SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE or TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS (both reviewed on this site) rather than this one. Anyone who is still undecided about whether or not to plunge into the world of Alain Robbe-Grillet well, that’s why I’ve put all these pictures up here.
The BFI is releasing the box set Alain Robbe-Grillet: 6 Films 1964 - 1974 on DVD and Blu-ray on 30th June 2014. The set will contain:
THE IMMORTAL ONE (L'IMMORTELLE) (1963)
THE MAN WHO LIES (L'HOMME QUI MENT) (1968)
EDEN AND AFTER (L'EDEN ET APRES) (1970)N. TOOK THE DICE (N. A PRIS LES DES…) (1971)
SUCCESSIVE SLIDING OF PLEASURE (GLISSEMENTS PROGRESSIFS DU PLAISIR) (1974)