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The Paul Bartel/Mary Woronov cult comedy classic finally gets the Criterion high-def presentation it deserves...
Criterion / 83 Minutes / 1982 / Unrated / Street Date: September 25, 2012
Distinctively strange and totally off in nearly every narrative sense, Eating Raoul has been a hard-to-find cult favorite for thirty years, and now it's been sucker-punched back to life in the form of a Criterion Blu-ray release. Directed by and starring cult film veterans Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, Raoul is never ostensibly likeable as a motion picture, but there's nevertheless something perversely laudable about it: it goes too far, but one admires it all the more for doing so.
The stage for Eating Raoul is pretty much summed up by its title. Woronov and Bartel play a married couple always on the lookout for extra cash, and in the film's early moments, they concoct a grand idea for a moneymaking scheme - they'll put out an ad attracting sexual deviants to their home for fulfillment one at a time (that'll be the wife's department), and while they're there, the husband will kill the perverts and subsequently sell their dead bodies for dog food. Appetizing, I know.
But even with its decided narratively inconsistencies, Eating Raoul's rampant amorality is pretty damned fun to watch. The movie is never as blatantly graphic as, honestly, one expects, but in placing both major and minor characters in such a slipstream of hideousness, Bartel and Woronov concoct a sort of Grand Guignol out of the thing. Eating Raoul is no fable - it's a meditation on desperation in the me decade and the run-off from the sexual proclivity of the years that preceded it.
How well Eating Raoul has aged is best left up to individual viewers. I experienced the film on a terrible print at a midnight screening in college, and while I'd hasten to call it a classic, I still have a soft spot for it - and was thrilled when Criterion announced a high-def edition earlier this year. But newcomers might balk at its lazy pace and oblique storytelling style. One thing's for sure any way you slice it, though: Eating Raoul is like nothing else you've seen.