Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Film Review: EATING RAOUL (1982, Paul Bartel)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 83 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran (LONE WOLF MCQUADE, BIG LOVE, NIXON), Richard Paul (THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, EXORCIST II), Ed Begley, Jr., John Landis cameo. Co-written by Richard Blackburn (LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL).
Tag-lines: "Meet the Blands! They're square . . . They're in love . . . And they kill people."
Best one-liner: "Well, there's one consideration. If you'd done what he asked, he would have died anyway."
Best exchange: "I'm the host here, goddammit, now get out of your clothes and get into the hot tub, or get out! We don't want any wet blankets or spoilsports at this party...we're here to SWING!" "-Yeah, well, swing on THIS!"

EATING RAOUL takes elements of film noir, the Roger Corman school of B-movies, John Waters, and the traditions of its own inimitable director and star, Paul Bartel, and coagulates them into a dark, hilarious, and gritty L.A. masterpiece that I feel is superior to the other great early 80's oddball cult comedies like REPO MAN. This is good "quirky" (a giant wine pillow?!) before quirky got sold up the river and commercialized.

Self-produced for nearly nothing by Bartel and his parents, the film has an attention to detail which is exquisite: half the jokes are visual or aural cues buried in the scene or dubbed in later, which become the filmic equivalent of the tiny, jokey, tucked away illustrations in the classic issues of Mad Magazine. (And with a greater degree of subtlety than, say, AIRPLANE.)

Bartel and frequent collaborator Mary Woronov prove themselves to be one of the all-time great cinematic teams: if you will, the 70's and 80's demented cult answer to Tracey and Hepburn. (They acted together in 18 films, and Bartel directed her in 5.)

As always, their dynamic is perfect, making even obvious jokes uproarious due to their low-key, matter-of-fact presentation.

The film knows what lines to cross (race, swingers, fetishists), exactly how far to go without being gratuitous, and its humor is definitely a precursor and influence on contemporary awkward hilarity such as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Five stars. And special note: this movie has nearly nothing to do with cannibalism, yet I frequently see it lumped in with DELICATESSEN, SWEENEY TODD or other films of that ilk, which is absurd.

As an angering side note, the current R1 DVD transfer image is unduly elongated and basically sucks. But still see it!

-Sean Gill

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