FOCUS WORLD (2017)
Director: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss
Newcomer director Julia Ducournau masquerades a coming-of-age tale via a cannibal movie. Sounds weird? You’d be right, but it’s so very tasty as well.
Young and naïve vet-to-be Justine (Marillier) attends the first day of her stint at veterinary school with hopes and dreams, but they are quickly interrupted by a gang of balaclava wearing students trashing the dorms and ordering the newbies to a seedy rave packed with booze, sex, drugs and electro beats – the antithesis of socially awkward Justine’s idea of fun.
A lively start to vet school that only gets stranger as the new students are huddled together and drenched in sticky blood before the real initiation task – eating delicious rabbit kidney. Unfortunately for Justine, she is a stout vegetarian. Uh oh. With the coercion of her older sister and second year student Alexia (Rumpf), she gobbles the kidney down and immediately feels like hell. Vicious looking rashes appear, her desire to eat hair and raw chicken become insatiable, a Brazilian wax goes horribly wrong, her gay roommate awakens her sexual desires and there’s some bloody finger sucking. That’s just the start.
Raw is not a movie about sub-human mumblers scouring the city for human flesh and brains, far from it. It isn’t about a trapped party in the middle of nowhere who must eat each other to survive. It’s the story of a young woman who begins to understand herself, her body and her mind through the use of cannibalism and a close tribal mentality. It really isn’t as bad as it could sound.
A slow-paced, quiet movie, Raw takes it’s time to hit the gratuitous notes it has become infamous for (paramedics were called at festival screenings as audience members were passing out) but again, the gore isn’t played out in typical horror conventions, it’s almost gentle and shown in a caring light. That’s not to downplay the level of gore on show, it’s fairly heavy and no punches pulled, if you’re squeamish, you may struggle.
Garance Marillier delivers a tender performance as Justine, managing to look suitably lost in confusion and also lust at once. She handles the vulnerable and sexual scenes very well and her sense of paranoia and panic is brilliantly portrayed. Her growth is clear by the end of the movie. The subtext of feminine power oozes through as she taps into another element of her journey.
Raw is a movie filled with striking images, both in terms of wonderful cinematography (man, do the French have a flair for beautiful looking movies) and moments throughout the movie that hit you and stick with you after the movie. The hedonistic raves, the blood-soaked lab coats, the blood-dripping jaws are just a few of the prominent visuals the movie is full of. Not content with hiding behind its visuals, it is also a smart, perceptive movie that makes the most of its tight 99 minute runtime.
Brimming with confidence, Ducournau delivers a fine coming-of-age cannibal movie that feels fresh and original whilst teeming with sharp subtext and thrilling performances.
This review was written whilst chowing down on an arse cheek.
July 29th 2017