FILM REVIEW: SHE IS CONANN
After the mind-bending Sci-fi Western AFTER BLUE, French arthouse phenomenon Bertrand Mandico takes a mighty stab at another fantasy of epic proportions with his new film SHE IS CONANN. This time, taking a Sword-and-Sorcery classic and shooting it from a glitter cannon – through time and space – and onto a pheromone-soaked dance floor.
Thanks to film company Altered Innocence, who bring international and cutting-edge LGBTQIA+ and Coming-of-Age cinema, SHE IS CONANN film is set for a theatrical release in North America and Canada on February 2.
Writer/Director/Cinematographer Mandico takes Robert E. Howard’s iconic (yet dusty) character ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and gives it the time-travelling, butch-femme makeover you never knew you needed. Reimagined as CONANN (with two ’n’s), played incredibly by a killer French cast of badass femme fatales: Claire Duburcq (AFTER BLUE), Christa Théret (RENOIR), Sandra Parfait (LUPIN), Agata Buzek (HIGH LIFE), Nathalie Richard (AFTER LOVE), and Françoise Brion (L’IMMORTELLE).
I adored AFTER BLUE and was ecstatic to watch this, curious to see the auteur’s evolution… and OMD [Oh Mon Dieu]! This exceeded all my expectations by lightyears. Part hallucinatory Odessy, part Queer Romance, part Coming of (Warrior), this – I’m going to say it – masterpiece is a genuine sight to behold!
Lead by Mandico Hall-Of-Famer, the incomparable Elina Löwensohn as Rainer: guide(dog) to the underworld- channelling a marriage of The River Styxx Ferryman and a one-headed Cerberus. This (chain-smoking) canine leads Conann on a hero’s journey, propelling us on a turbulent (yet carefully curated) ride through the many lives of Conann, with each “revamp” seeing Conann become stronger, more driven and vibrating at a higher frequency than the former.
This is a world where everything sparkles like diamonds, and the wind carries a glittery detritus. When in colour, there is often a neon refulgence bouncing off the screen, and sex and violence are always on the menu––often in unison.
There are crisp moments that would look right at home in a luxury perfume commercial retrofitted with Body Horror. Black and White sequences pop like chrome and beckon you with an entrancing aura- but get too close, and you’ll feel a static zap like pressing your tongue to a battery. When a strobe is employed occasionally, the film is completely arresting.
There is a perpetual undercurrent ruminating on the patriarchal shadow that so often engulfs the gender spectrum and how it ultimately serves nobody, not even those who built the system. This examination is exquisitely conveyed by taking specifically male figures out of the equation (almost) altogether, making the power imbalances glaringly obvious. The few men seen in the film are faceless and nameless. Men are not just second-class citizens here – they rarely take up space at all, which is refreshing for a multitude of reasons.
Mandico makes every frame a painting: all Special Effects are done in-camera with practical movie magic and an array of lenses, making for supremely striking visuals that will never date; SHE IS CONANN channels pure French cinema of old.
All sound is created in post-production, reminiscent of classic Giallo’s, giving it an uncanny quality that feels just right, given everything on display is bursting with absurdity. The film is expertly shot on expired film, producing an authentic graininess that is very hard to recreate with integrity. You just can’t beat the real thing. Each act is more exciting than the last, and the final act is going into the cinematic book of WTF in the best way possible. It’s sheer poetry.
There are so many iconic set pieces and unforgettable sequences that you are bound to be positively drenched in sequinned sweat by the end, making this a perfect midnight movie for any genre-film buff, celluloid detective, or anyone looking to spice up their usual programming.
Release dates and locations from Altered Innocence can be found here. If you see one Greco-Roman-Cyberpunk-Noir-Queer-Fantasy this year, make sure it is SHE IS CONANN.
“Part hallucinatory Odessy, part Queer Romance, part Coming of (Warrior), this – I’m going to say it – masterpiece is a genuine sight to behold!”