Kelly's February Pick
Raw is a French - Belgian film, written and directed by Julia Ducournau that was released in 2016. However, I first saw it in 2017 at Toronto screening of it where Alex West, writer, and fellow podcaster, was a special guest. She was invited to discuss French horror as she wrote the book on New French Extremity films. Upon completing it, I was absolutely floored by the film. It’s the story of a young woman named Justine, who comes from a loving family of vegetarians. She goes to vet school which is the same school that her parents went to, and where her older sister, Alexia, currently attends. As part of the initiation/hazing for “rookie” students, they are doused with animal blood and “forced” to eat raw rabbit kidney with a shot of alcohol. Justine initially turns this down as she is a staunch vegetarian and animal lover, but her sister insists she does it so that she isn’t seen as a “chicken”. Soon after she begins to change and form into her newfound, flesh-craving womanhood. This encourages a confidence and sexuality not known to her previously.
Raw is the debut movie by Julia Ducournau and it’s so unbelievably wonderful. It contains many elements of a movie I would enjoy: coming of age, transformations, emerging sexuality in a young woman, primal sexuality, and female bonding/friendship. The acting is amazing, the premise fascinating. The choice and placement of music are perfect, especially the bedroom dancing scene with Justine. The song is Plus Putes que toutes les Putes by Orties and here is a snippet of the lyrics:
First lesson of seduction
To be a whore with education
To make fun of boys To
prefer horse riding To have
fun of the blowjob To
censor the appellation
And to ensure during the action
Citric acid and feromones
To push the metronome
1 2 3 4 stop
I practice sex after death
Sex after death I
practice sex after death
Sex after death
Now that song will be stuck in my head all week...The scene when Justine finally realizes what she has been craving this whole time is also truly fantastic. The charismatic sisterhood between Justine and Alexia is so natural, honest and funny! I feel like she captured the intricacies of family dynamics perfectly.
Justine is sweet, quiet, and virginal. She calls herself “average” in the movie as she doesn’t want to stand out though she still does due to her intelligence and family reputation. Everyone around her is or seems to be, confident and outgoing and are definitely sexualized. Her sister is her opposite and one of these types. I had moments of relating to Justine due to her animal rights beliefs and being seen as “weird” with a differing belief system and frustrated with the hypocrisy of the veterinary industry.
As Justine emerges from her introverted veneer into this confident, sexual creature, the intensity of the movie climaxes into a surprising ending that sheds light on this close-knit family. The sex scene with Justine is one of frenetic, erotic, primal energy and one I haven't seen done so well in a long time.
I wish I could watch Raw for the first time all over again! It is a movie that deserves a ton of attention and I can’t wait to see what Julia Ducournau comes up with next. She is intelligent, and thoughtful, just read an interview with her and it will be obvious. This is definitely one writer/director to watch.
Here is a great interview with Julia Ducournau: