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movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson

Raw movie review: girly gory allegory

Raw green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Cinema as a punch in the gut and not for the squeamish, casting female desire as ravenously predatory in a way that few films have ever had the audacity to do.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about women
I’m “biast” (con): not much of a horror fan
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Teen Justine (newcomer Garance Marillier) gets a barbaric welcome as a new student at her veterinary college: the horrifying hazing she is subjected to starts off like a riot, moves on to something akin to being taken hostage, and ends with being dunked in animal blood. The initiation also requires that she consume a raw rabbit kidney, which is extra disgusting to her because she’s a vegetarian. She’s not being picked on especially: all the freshmen go through this. And it sets a savage stage for what comes next: a taste for flesh is awakened in Justine that grows until it compels her to do some terrible things. This first feature from French writer-director Julia Ducournau won a slew of awards at festivals last year, and they are well deserved: Raw is cinema as a punch in the gut, not for the squeamish or the faint of heart but hugely rewarding in how it mines fiercely visceral emotional reactions out of insistent, shocking visualstweet that dare us not to look away. Via shy, virginal Justine’s first confrontations with the grownup world of sex and self-determination, Ducournau turns the the awful, violent things girls do to their own bodies — waxing, purging — outward on others, and casts female desire as ravenously predatory in a way that few films have ever had the audacity to dotweet; the way Justine leers at her friend Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella: Girlhood), as he runs around innocently shirtless playing soccer, turns an already rare female gaze spectacularly greedy. (The fact that he is gay renders him even more heedless of her hunger, and hence her hunger even more dangerous to him.) Bold and brutal, Raw takes up the gauntlet of the female coming-of-age story and smacks us across the face with its outrageous originality.tweet


green light 4 stars

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Raw (2017) | directed by Julia Ducournau
US/Can release: Mar 10 2017
UK/Ire release: Apr 07 2017

MPAA: rated R for aberrant behavior, bloody and grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, language and drug use/partying
BBFC: rated 18 (strong gory images, injury detail)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Reese1379

    No doubt it’s an allegory for the human condition etc. But I have to ask myself do I want to watch a movie depicting cannibalism at a veterinary school and the answer is a big no. I do despair at what passed for modern culture. Invoking feelings of shock and revulsion in the viewer do not a work of art make. Invariably, as long as it grosses out the viewer then it’s deemed art. But then again who am I to criticize this, I am after all a member of the repressive patriarchy.

  • Invoking feelings of shock and revulsion in the viewer do not a work of art make.

    True. And I never said that they do.

    Invariably, as long as it grosses out the viewer then it’s deemed art.

    Also something I did not say.

    I am after all a member of the repressive patriarchy.

    We all are.

  • Paul Weissman

    Evoking a feeling of shock and revulsion in the hands of a talented filmmaker allows you to empathize with the human condition. And Ducournau is as talented as they come. You will also find a great deal of humor and compassion and one of the most honest depictions of sisterhood (of the familial) kind I’v seen in any film, horror or otherwise.

  • Reese1379

    > Evoking a feeling of shock and revulsion in the hands of a talented filmmaker allows you to empathize with the human condition ..

    In my opinion it would tend to desensitise one to the unpleasant experiences of others. Personally I’d prefer cheerful and happy anyday.

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