Raw

 

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First-time director Julia Ducournau introduces audiences to a whole new world of carnivorous knowledge.

 

Raw

Rabbit punch: Garance Marillier

 

American horror films are two a penny at the multiplex. However, if a French one makes it to these shores you can be pretty sure that it will be both smart and unusual. The Franco-Belgian Raw has already acquired an international notoriety, due to the fact that members of the audience keep on fainting, necessitating paramedical intervention. Of course, one takes these stories with a pinch of salt, although the film does boast a unique emetic power.

 

Marking the feature directorial debut of the Paris-born, 32-year-old Julia Ducournau, the film puts you in your place from the outset. Then, after the admonitory prologue, we are introduced to Justine (Garance Marillier) and her parents as they drive cross-country to Justine’s new home: veterinary college. It transpires that Justine’s older sister, Alex, is already there and that there is a rift in the family. But before their arrival we witness a scene that might already unsettle vegetarian viewers. At a roadside eatery, Justine orders just mashed potato but finds a stray piece of meat in her mouth. She is a vehement veggie and as she disgorges the offensive chunk, her mother (Joana Preiss) charges off to complain to the management. This family takes their diet very seriously indeed. Once at college, though, things go from bad to worse. During a brutal hazing ritual, Justine is forced to consume a raw rabbit kidney, an act that spares her the contempt of her elders but brings about a strange biological reaction…

 

The reason Raw works so well is not just because it includes a number of gruesome set pieces, but because it eschews the formulaic. Had this been an American movie, Justine would have been a blonde beauty, but Garance Marillier is just an ordinary looking teenager. There’s also a welcome lack of background music, which gives the incidental moments an added note of naturalism. And every scene is well placed. There’s a lovely cameo from Marion Vernoux as a level-headed nurse who not only provides a welcome perspective of sanity but has the audacity to light up a cigarette in her office. As for the scenes designed to disturb, there are enough here to perturb the average viewer, regardless of their respective qualms. Beyond the obviously carnivorous, the film is chock-a-block with sex, violence and dead animals. For sexual fetishists there’s even a display of oculolinctus, although an equine endoscopy or a close-up of a Brazilian waxing might unhinge others even more.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Marion Vernoux, Jean-Louis Sbille.

 

Dir Julia Ducournau, Pro Jean de Forêts, Screenplay Julia Ducournau, Ph Ruben Impens, Pro Des Laurie Colson, Ed Jean-Christophe Bouzy, Music Jim Williams, Costumes Elise Ancion.

 

Frakas Productions/Petit Film/Rouge International-Universal Pictures.

98 mins. France/Belgium. 2016. Rel: 7 April 2017. Cert. 18.