What if Jean-Luc Godard took the “Children of Marx and Coca-Cola” fed them The Powder of Fear and then dropped them down some S&M dominated psycho-sexual fantasy wormhole that resembled Alice In Wonderland by way of The Marquis De Sade? You may not end up with Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Eden And After but you’d have to be quite close. Or completely off. Who the fuck knows?
Robbe-Grillet was not only famous for writing the script to Last Year at Marienbad, but as a noted filmmaker and novelist on his own. Following his non-linear, black & white experiments in challenging the narrative and aesthetics of popular cinema in the 1960s with L’Immortelle and Trans-Europ Express, his work would turn much darker (and much more colorful) in the 70s. Eden And After would be his first color film and the first to truly explore Robbe-Grillet’s interest in sadomasochism, which is at least touched on in every film of his prior. And that would be the least daring thing about it.
Eden And After isn’t a traditional narrative, which should be expected coming from the writer of the beyond obtuse Last Year at Marienbad and the equally playful and cryptic Trans-Europ Express, but unlike his previous features it never feels like it has any warrant to be one. A lot has been written on Dream Logic and cinema, much of that following/involving the work of David Lynch (who cites Robbe-Grillet as an influence), and there is likely no other way to justify the sheer insanity contained in this 98 minutes. The story seems entirely arbitrary, but it involves a group of young intellectuals that congregate at a space named Eden and play weird games and discuss things that don’t make sense to anyone that wasn’t a 1970s young French intellectual, and then they start taking the Powder of Fear. What happens after that is like Altered States by way of Jess Franco.
It would be safe to say that I’m an admirer of Robbe-Grillet’s work and this is only second to the film which he’d follow it with, 1974’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure, if I were to attempt to place it. Most of it doesn’t make sense, some of it is meandering, all of it is stunning to look at and you’ll know within the opening credits if you should bother continuing. But you should, anyway. If you don’t, you’ll end up missing a puddle of what looks like rice pudding filled with blood and being fondled, nearly every female wearing mini skirts that would be deemed too short for Barbarella to wear, and the Mia Farrow lookalike lead doing an impromptu dance in front of a lot of fire. And then there’s all sorts of potential espionage, murder shenanigans, weird sex and rampant hallucinogenic drug usage. It’s a fun ride.
Kino has been releasing these Robbe-Grillet discs throughout the year and they’ve been a cause for celebration (at least for me). The only other color title so far has been Successive Slidings of Pleasure, and while it didn’t look quite as good as the black & white films, it was the best that I’ve ever seen it. Same now goes for Eden and After. As with the other discs, this is a restoration from 35mm materials and is in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. This transfer is actually a bit stronger than Successive Slidings of Pleasure‘s with very vibrant colors (especially the reds!) and a healthy grain structure that should more than please film fetishists. There are some brief moments of wear and damage to the source material but they’re hardly detrimental to the experience and don’t appear for any significant amount of time. Audio is 2.0 LPCM and is more than adequate for this presentation. Music never drowns out dialogue and I wasn’t reaching for my remote to adjust sound at all once it began. Solid work all around.
Supplements wise these discs have not been too packed, but they have all had an interview with Robbe-Grillet and this one does too. The interview runs for a half hour and is a casual, though informative, discussion that should be watched after seeing the film. We also get an alternate cut of Eden and After titled N. Takes the Dice which runs 79 minutes as opposed to 98. It’s really a different experience rather than just a trimming of sorts, and it makes sense considering how damned weird the original version is. It sort of works and it sort of doesn’t, but its inclusion here makes this an essential package for fans of Robbe-Grillet.