Combustible Celluloid
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With: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux, Jean-Louis Sbille
Written by: Julia Ducournau
Directed by: Julia Ducournau
MPAA Rating: R for aberrant behavior, bloody and grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, language and drug use/partying
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 03/17/2017

Raw (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Protein Wolf

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This French-language cannibal-horror movie reportedly made audiences in Cannes and Toronto vomit, pass out, and/or walk out; it's not really that bad, but it can be playfully queasy, artfully gory fun.

In Raw, Justine (Garance Marillier) is heading to college to study to be a veterinarian. Her family are strict vegetarians, and, stopping for lunch, she recoils in horror when a meatball turns up in her mashed potatoes. At school, her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), also a student, fails to show up to meet Justine.

But soon Justine is caught up in various initiations and hazings from older students, starting with an all-night, drunken party — where Justine does find Alexia — and including the required eating of a raw rabbit kidney. After this, Justine develops a strange rash, followed by uncontrollable hunger, and a craving for meat. Soon even her gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) begins making her salivate. Meanwhile, Alexia seems to be hiding a dark secret.

Making her feature directing and writing debut, Julia Ducournau is certainly inspired by masters like Dario Argento, Stanley Kubrick, and David Cronenberg, but brings a new kind of female perspective to her story. Raw shows a male-dominated hierarchy and the struggles that women go through just to stay equal, from a spoken story about an overweight girl getting her shots to a urinating contest between the sisters.

But Ducournau does not do or say anything overtly. She buries her politics within the emotions of the story. We experience just about everything through Justine's eyes and feelings. In one scene, she writhes in pain from hunger pangs or simply stomach pain, and she remains jammed under her sheets, the camera stuck in there with her.

Eventually, the movie can't quite figure out how to end itself, but it provides enough striking images and ideas to qualify as a strong calling card for a promising filmmaker.

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