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By midlandsmovies, Aug 9 2017 03:15PM



Raw (2017) Dir. Julia Ducournau


What if you had a rash that didn’t stop itching? Well, that’s just one of the inescapable addictions in French-Belgian film Raw that looks at growing up in a world of school, sex, and illness.


We follow Garance Marillier as the wild-eyed and vegetarian Justine who follows in her parents and sister’s footsteps and heads to veterinary school. Here she is immediately thrown into the wild parties and the ritualistic and degrading hazing of new joiners at the college.


The director shows the horrors of hedonism in long tracking shots in nightclubs and the frightening freshers’ week ends in the new recruits covered in blood and guts in a Carrie-esque soaking. The final initiation sees Justine forcing down a raw rabbit kidney despite her veggie instincts.


An irritating body rash soon develops before more primal impulses start to form and the lifelong herbivore begins to enjoy the taste of meat-filled sandwiches. This soon progresses to raw chicken then even her own hair which is regurgitated in a shot of visual repulsion.


Her college life continues and the director gives us stark glimpses of the school with scenes of horses, breeding and animal corpses. From the limbs of a variety of beasts, the crossover between animal and human is an obvious parallel but works well as we see the two combine. Sometimes literally when Justine is shown elbow deep in a bovine’s bottom.


It is here when the director’s realism culminates in a horrific scene as her sister’s finger is accidentally cut off and Justine crosses a taboo line. Much like the cinematic authenticity of French film Martyrs, the slice-of-life direction focusing on drama make the shocks all the more terrifying. The amazing Ella Rumpf plays her sister Alexia and the film begins to suggest a sibling similarity between the relatives.


With an almost non-existent score (mostly a soundtrack of background music and sounds), the simple turn from biological functions – themselves depicted in their simple disgusting glory – to a craving for the forbidden fruit of human flesh is revoltingly good. With bullying and nappy punishments, the film is visually biological with a strong focus on the body. From things going in and coming out of orifices to waxing and washing, the film cuts between these haunting human images to animal autopsies and dissections.


A horse on a treadmill appears symbolic of Justine’s ever growing and onoging hunger for “bodies” and her cravings for the phallic finger leads to an awakening sexuality as she breeds and bleeds with her male mating partner.


I subsequently felt that Raw infects the audience with an orgy of limbs whilst Justine’s withdrawal is depicted in a painfully straight forward filming style. Like the recent US film Maggie, Raw takes the flesh-eating concept and attempts to normalise its presentation. Raw is a much greater triumph though, and far better movie, and becomes a biting, but maybe slightly on the nose, metaphor for growing up and its effects on the body. The film succeeds on many levels and after it had finished I found an obsession with its images and themes and longed for another taste of its delicious pleasures.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 10 2017 10:04AM

ELLE (2017) Dir. Paul Verhoeven


With a performance nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (and several wins including at the Golden Globes) Isabelle Huppert stars as Michèle Leblanc in this darkly fascinating illicit drama.


Opening with a shocking rape at home, Huppert’s video game company manager fails to alert the police before resuming her complicated life. This involves her son’s strange relationships, her mother’s overt liaisons with younger men as well as her own affair with the husband of her business partner.


If that wasn’t enough, she is also the daughter of an infamous mass murderer (!) whose parole is approaching fast. As these strands intertwine, Verhoeven does a great job of expertly maintaining the plot threads as to avoid confusion and Huppert’s crucial role is central in almost every single scene.


Verhoeven is never one to shy away from tackling controversial themes and he fills his boots here. From the violent satires of Robocop and Starship Troopers through to the ugly sexual politics of Basic Instinct (and heck, even the underrated Hollow Man), the director has consistently commented on problematic issues with a clever knowing. Here he adds some (very) dark comedy situations – especially one involving her son’s lack of acknowledgement of the colour of 'his' baby’s dark skin – but the film’s style is one of overall seriousness with flickers of comedy when needed.


Is there ever too much of a good thing? Well, Verhoeven certainly throws everything into the film he can but if the film has one potential flaw it is that it tries to cover too much. Think of all the French-drama-film clichés regularly appearing in that country’s cinema – dysfunctional relationships, revenge, sexual politics, family dynamics – and the film piles them on. One subplot is the son’s girlfriend whom his mother dislikes that escalates into bullying by said girlfriend, which increases into an unannounced birth then topped with a paternity issue that subsequently results in a child kidnapping!


Many side plots were so full of ‘events’ they could have been movies in their own right. They add depth but the film could have focused on fewer events and more on their impact. That said, in contrast, the film is never dull and keeps the audience’s attention with a multitude of motivating characters and scenes.


Avoiding any black and white answers or solutions, Elle is a triumph for taking risks by questioning societal reactions to complicated events. And it asks the audience to confront these difficult decisions and their controversial outcomes.


As a huge fan of his sci-fi films, Verhoeven continues to push boundaries and shows his technical and story skill which still reflects the filmmaker I fell in love with. Although not necessarily in the genre I personally have liked him the best, Elle shows a director who can move into newer territories whilst taking their talent with them. And anchored by Huppert’s striking performance, Elle is a film that is an engrossing, stacked-to-the-brim, thoughtful success.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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