This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Rembrandt Q Pumpernickel’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
For the month of March, at least for all of my "March around the World" films, I will be cribbing my friend ghostdinosaur's current list making style of review to make the challenge easier and less time consuming.
Things I like about Raw:
1. I am very rarely grossed out by films, but I felt nauseous during the scene where Justine just keeps pulling something bloody and flesh like out of her throat. The only two off the top of my head moments that made me feel as physically revulsed are golden showers in Taxi Zum Klo and one I forgot between when I saw this movie and when I started this review. If it comes back to me, I'll edit it in. This film almost had a second moment that qualified when Justine and another student are coated in paint and forced to make out. Kissing is gross enough, but when you add paint to the mix, ugh.
2. John Carpenter style long shots. While Julia Ducournau prefers using a more normal to telephoto lens for these shots as opposed to the wide angle that Carpenter likes, the effect is still the same. Hitchcock, Carpenter, and Ducournau understand that horror can often foster emotional investment through distancing. Keeping the audience at an arm's length is sort of similar to (but truer imo) the idea that the imagination can dream up worse than whatever is put on the screen. Access to reality and people's faces, in particular, provide catharsis that good horror movies often deny to one's discomfort.
3. I've complained about a number of films recently that don't spend enough time on developing their characters, but Raw reveals this to be a facile way of phrasing this complaint. Characters are established quickly and effectively in Raw. The dad asking his daughter if she smokes and then giving her a cig tells you a lot about him. The mother railing against a likely underpaid cafeteria worker about accidentally including meat in her daughter's food and then putting her shoeless feet up on the dash in the car tell me almost everything I need to know about her. She's that extremely frustrating type of liberal who makes personal high-minded, ethical choices while dripping with entitlement and completely unaware or uncaring of the constraints of people who are lower on the SES scale than her. Superficial left politics with a purely capitalist underpinning.
4. Accurately captures how terrifying any large group of men are.
5. "I specifically requested a girl roommate."
"I'm a fag. They think it's the same thing."
This feels like a throwaway line/joke, but I think it hints at a much deeper truth about this hormonal time in people's lives: your defining characteristic is who you want to fuck. Everything else is secondary.
6. Captures the college experience. Hazing, parties, walking in on your roommate having sex and your privacy derailed, diving in front of cars to cause accidents so you can eat the victim's brains. College stuff.
7. Sibling rivalry. Yelling about who the parents love best, fighting over meaningless crap, eating their finger, coercing them into acting like a dog while drunk. Sister stuff.
8. One of the major themes of Jupiter Rising was the idea that to live is to consume. You can't live and not take something else that someone else could have had. You can't live and not feed off the death of something else. That movie had Eddie Redmayne simply blurt it out and then sort of facilely covered up the exposed wound by having Mila Kunis return to her Podunk job to express a kind of simplistic and ultimately naive response to this issue. But there is no ethical consumption. Not under capitalism and not under any system. Being a cannibal is worse than being an omnivore is worse than being a vegetarian is worse than being a vegan is worse than being a vegan who doesn't have a cell phone is worse than a vegan who doesn't have a cell phone and uses public transportation is worse than one who bikes or walks everywhere, etc and so on into infinity. We draw lines based on the time period we live in and an expanding circle of empathy for the life that surrounds us, but everyone at some point says to themselves, "These are the things I will eat and take of, and these are the things I won't." It's an unsolvable and existential problem of being born, and the horror implications of it won't go away from me any time soon.
9. A line of photos of every class dating back years implies that this is not a new problem but simply a new vessel for an old one.
10. "You think I spent twenty years hiding, and now I'm just gonna screw girls!"
11. May be the first film that represents a cis man's sexuality as being fluid or at least vulnerable to experimentation under the right circumstances. I've seen a hundred movies that privilege a male gaze via turning gay women straight or finding titillation in watching straight women experiment but never one where a man crosses the boundary of his previously established sexuality.
12. The entirely unhelpful, although societally approved advice, that the women of campus deliver to Justine with helpful smiles. "Use two fingers, and it will come out more quickly."
"Beauty is pain."
13. "What do you eat for breakfast?"
"The cereal is up there."
"Can I get some milk for my cereal?"
14. You can bring your dog to French college!?
15. Alexia's grim and cruel laughter at the family dog being put to sleep. Rather than being a kick the dog moment, it feels like a mere extension of veterinary work. I worked at a kennel/vet one summer, and all the vet technicians (the nurses of veterinary hospitals) agreed that liking animals was a terrible quality for a vet/vet technician to have. You will be attacked by too many you are trying to help, watch too many you've grown attached to die. And on even a base level, all teaching hospitals rely on sick patients and corpses. Your knowledge expansion revolves around the suffering of others.
16. Doctors who smoke in hospitals. Always and forever funny.
17. The doctor's story about the "round" woman not only because it accurately highlights the normalization of how different people get ostracized but that even this moment of accidental kindness is undercut by how cruelly the doctor tells the story to Justine.
18. Rashes are gross and upsetting to look at.
19. Justine dances to increasingly upsetting French rap while staring at herself in the mirror, ending with the rapper talking about how she wants to fuck the dead.
20. The upsetting ghostly image of Justine and Alexia's face blurred into one by sitting on opposite sides of a reflective window. It may be straight up cribbed from High and Low, but if you're going to crib from anywhere, what I consider the greatest movie of all time is a good place to start.
21. The almost Abbott and Costello like nature of Alexia and Justine's conversation when they are crouched by the roadside. We need to talk. Ok, what do you want to talk about. Do you want to talk about something? You asked me over here to talk. What did you want to talk about then? I don't; you asked me to talk! Well, then shut up and watch.
22. Quicky is replaced easily with no real mourning ever shown visually.
23. Adrien hurriedly closes his laptop with gay porn on it even though Justine knows he is gay and has already seen him getting blown by somebody.
24. The sound design. This was true of all three movies I drove to Atlanta to see. Song to Song had the best sound design, then Personal Shopper, then Raw.
Things I don't like about Raw:
1. Alexia playing a video game after she (or possibly both her sister and her) have killed Adrien slightly undercuts my feelings in like point 9. It's a moment that is begging to be read as associating the extreme violence of the film with a new generation and video games. Considering the confession of the father that ends the film, the audience knows this literally isn't true, but that is how the moment will be read regardless.
2. It's not exactly an in media res beginning because we don't know exactly when the scene that opens the film takes place compared to the rest of the film (may be the car that Justine and Adrien see from the bus when they are going to get schwarma, but I wasn't sure), but the opening scene serves a similar dumb purpose regardless. Hook the audience to keep them interested in how the film's narrative gets to that place. It's especially disappointing in films like John Wick, The Shallows, and this because I was never not interested in the way the film could've started if these opening scenes were cut.
3. Has some of the same problems that Mitchell outlined as his complaints with The Fits on our best of 2016 podcast. The more interesting theme outlined in like point number 8 is muddled with some other less interesting themes about the trials and tribulations of growing up, the pressures of being an outsider/star student, and the desire to conform to gender roles via the supernatural and horror conventions. This territory was fairly well trodden when Buffy the Vampire Slayer addressed it in 1997, and it did about the best job with it that it could before realizing that there wasn't that much to say beyond growing up can be equally as scary as monsters. That show smartly moved away from those limitations and, in my opinion, achieved its peak greatness in season 6 when the monsters seem kind of pathetic and undeserving of attention compared to the mounting and overwhelming real world problems that the gang goes through.
4. Unnerving trucker incident seems to play directly into the stereotyping of lower class people that Eli Roth and Drew Goddard so effectively parodied in Cabin Fever and The Cabin in the Woods.
5. A couple times does that thing where it feels like the filmmakers found a pretty shot and just sort of maneuvered their way into having it that makes it feel self-conscious and less pretty than they hoped as opposed to a shot that is functional, organic, and aesthetically pleasing.
6. Zombielike walk of shame (in spite of being a walk of shame that includes both men and women, which I appreciated) and similar moment of crawling to the first party that the rookies are forced to attend. They visually recall horror tropes but feel like completely unnecessary and shoe horned in references.
7. The dad's final confession. With another rewrite the wording might work for me really well but even as is I could like it if the actor who plays the dad really nailed the delivery. He doesn't. Speeches are one of an actor's hardest tasks and only the best ones can really make them sound real as opposed to stagey.
8. "No protein?" It's not that I've never been challenged about my vegetarianism or never known vegans or vegetarians who challenge people who eat meat, but this is a strawman invented by lazy stand up and media. Most people don't give a shit about what you eat, certainly not strangers.