Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Foreign Film Spotlight: RAW

Some of the best films ever made are ones that the general audience has never seen, and this is because they were made outside of the United States.  Welcome to another installment of FOREIGN FILM SPOTLIGHT, where we showcase some of the best in foreign cinema to help broaden your horizons.  This week, we take a look at the controversial French horror film...RAW.

Raw is a very hard film to write about. In many ways, it's a film that you should experience unspoiled. That being said, it's also a movie that should be discussed and promoted, so I will do my very best to accurately describe what the film is without ruining too much of the experience,

Raw focuses on a young girl named Justine in her first year in veterinary college. An innocent girl, she has rarely ever done anything that could be considered "exciting" for a teenage girl. She doesn't go to parties, she doesn't drink, rarely smokes, is a vegetarian, is a virgin, and is utterly unprepared socially for life in college. Finding difficulty adjusting, she's guided by her sister, but finds her to be much different than she remembered growing up. The social, academic, and emotional stresses weigh her down as she's unsure of who she's supposed to be. And to make matters worse, things start going in a dark direction after a strange hazing ritual organized by upperclassmen. Though it seems mundane at first, Justine's life becomes increasingly dark and morbid as time goes on, having stumbled upon a disturbing secret that's been hiding underneath the surface. A desire she'd never felt before, and one with chilling implications.

Make no mistake, Raw is violent, disturbing, and not for the faint of heart. The gore effects, and there's plenty of them, look incredibly realistic, but the wisest move the film makes is knowing when to save it and how to build tension. There were so many scenes made so much more tense by restraint from going for the graphic violence, making the graphic scenes all the more disturbing. Much of this tension is punctuated by how much of the film is spent with Justine attending classes, attending parties, and trying, in vain, to fit in. The film very effectively explores themes of dehumanization and the almost food-chain-esque nature of school social structure, while also finding ways to explore those same themes in its violence and its gore. The cinematography also adds to this almost zoo exhibit feel to the film, especially during party scenes.

The performances by Garance Marillier as Justine and Ella Rumpf as her sister, Alexia, drive the film. And despite the duo being relative unknowns stateside, they take advantage of every second of screentime given. The rest of the cast of characters serve their roles well. The two sisters are the central characters, and most of the others aren't really given a whole lot of depth. Much of the depth is in the film's themes and less in its characters. And while that almost always works to its advantages, I admit there are a few characters, such as Justine's roommate, who would've benefited from it, especially as the film rolls on.

The score is wonderful, reminding me of parts of The Neon Demon or It Follows, a very synth heavy score that emphasizes the body-horror-style gore on display in a way that would make David Cronenberg blush. And while I haven't gone too in depth about what the gore entails (other than it's incredibly graphic nature), rest assured, it's well worth the surprise, and in many ways, you'll predict what it is by the time it happens. Raw is a visceral, intense, violent, stylish, and incredibly intimate experience. Much of the time, I was alternating between covering my eyes and staring agape at what the film was doing. And if there's any ringing endorsement I could give the film, that would be it.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

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