L’Éden et après (Eden and After) (1970)

A group of students go to the Eden club where they play bizarre and cruel games including fake Russian Roulette, strange rituals, rape, blood-drinking and poison, until a mysterious stranger appears and ups the ante. After a bloody magic trick, he provides an African drug to a girl who sees a montage of fearful images and then slowly appears to live them, wandering into a strange fluid factory and into a postcard of Tunisia, where murders, S&M sex, dancing and a nonsensical plot of kidnapping and torture in order to locate a painting take place. The film is an experience, a reality created by illusions, hallucinations and drugs, with bizarre visuals and details emerging little by little as some images develop into scenes, albeit incoherent ones.

SYNOPSIS from allmovie.com
This plodding film concerns the bored college students who hang out at the cafe Eden. Hoping for adventure, one girl gets more than she bargains for when she and her date are chased by vicious gang members. She manages to escape when he is killed, but when she returns with help, the body is gone. Soon she is off to Tunisia to locate a stolen painting. After an erotic nude posing before a total stranger, she is kidnapped and chained by Arabs who pump her for information.

REVIEW from IMDb
Philosophical thriller or Post-Modern jigsaw or S&M skinflick – or all three at once – Alain Robbe-Grillet’s first colour film is a dazzling, at times frustrating experience. Try to imagine Alice in Wonderland crossed with Story of O and you may get some idea of the perverse sensibility at work behind it. Starting off in a labyrinthine, mirror-lined nightclub called Eden, moving on to a disused factory with huge industrial vats full of sperm, ending up on the Tunisian island of Djerba – with, naturally, a detour through a jet-set torture chamber where glamorous naked women are crucified or suspended in cages – Robbe-Grillet takes his wide-eyed and waif-like heroine (Catherine Jourdan) on a spiritual and erotic odyssey to…what exactly? Sorry, but I don’t know either.

Nor does Robbe-Grillet seem the tiniest bit inclined to let us in on the secret. According to a mysterious stranger (Pierre Zimmer) who breaks in on Jourdan and her jaded pals, it’s something to do with transcending the limits of rational Western consciousness. Finding a darker and more primitive reality. “Break on through to the other side” – or so The Doors might put it. Intriguing enough in a drugged-up late 60s kind of way, but Robbe-Grillet’s own personal “doors of perception” don’t seem to open very far beyond a spot of mild flagellation, or some Emmanuelle-style sex tourism on a photogenic Third World beach.

At least the film is exquisite to behold. Its imagery is bizarre and erotic and disturbing. Catherine Jourdan – who went on to make even weirder movies with director/husband Alain Fleischer – is a lovely heroine in the tradition of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine. She combines the doe-eyed fragility of a Mia Farrow with the icy blonde sensuality of a Catherine Deneuve. As her lover, Richard Leduc is undeniably handsome – but he seems far too sweet and mild-mannered for some seriously nasty sex-games with a blindfold and a bucket of scorpions. As for any ultimate meaning, you may or may not want to work that out. I suspect most of us would be happier not knowing.

Incidentally, Eden and After is one of Robbe-Grillet’s MORE linear films in terms of plot – yet it’s also one of his hardest to grasp. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from that, but – once again – don’t ask me what!

Date: February 15, 2021