A glorification of the mundane juxtaposed with the dilution of the absurd, Paul Bartel’s cult favorite Eating Raoul depicts a dull couple who kills swingers and steals their money in order to earn enough to start their own restaurant. Set in a tonguein-cheek dystopian version of present day 1982 Los Angeles, the story depicts every person in its exaggerated realm as hedonistic, rape-y sex maniacs—all except for husband and wife Paul and Mary Bland (Bartel and Mary Woronov). The Blands live in their modest apartment furnished with mid-century decor, including Formica countertops and a Bakelite telephone, but still the world around them is continuing to progress, now well into the 1980s.

Sordid and at times difficult with its footing, Eating Raoul isn’t for everyone. Our main characters are satirized by b the filmmakers and hardly ever likable, but that’s very much the point. T

ouching on the hypocrisy of superiority and the idea that capitalism needs those you despise just as much as those you don’t in order to work, everybody in the movie, including our protagonists, showcases an equal amount of sleaze. However, Bartel, who also directs, runs into problems when conveying real ideas through a world with almost zero touches of realism.

Despite witnessing a first act that’s riddled with shocking and ludicrous incidents, the audience never becomes more than nonplussed as they watch their characters so heedlessly devolve into the self-absorption they so despise. It’s not until about 40 minutes in when a con man, Raoul (Robert Beltran), gets involved in Paul and Mary’s scheme and our characters finally have some kinesis. As our intentionally-wonky tone solidifies, there’s a certain appealing unp edictability that crops up as well. Bartel’s biggest appeal, however, is his work behind the camera, with a frame that moves almost always as oddly as its well-hidden cheekiness, never losing its ingenuity.

Like Raising Arizona without the pathos, Eating Raoul asks the audience—not challenges them otherwise—to be as ambivalent as the characters on screen, regardless of their horrific acts. Yet here, the lack of sympathy will be a problem for some viewers who aren’t satisfied with the pitch black comedy at hand. However, it’s that very twisted pseudo-conviction on display that turns the creative control behind the lens into a creative force on screen.

About the Author: Ethan Brehm

Ethan Brehm

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