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Blu-ray review: Raw is a queasy cannibalistic coming-of-age classic

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Released by Second Sight Films on limited edition Blu-ray on the 19th of April, Raw is written and directed by Julia Ducournau (Servant) and stars Garance Marillier (Pompeii), Ella Rumpf (Tokyo Vice), and Rabah Nait Oufella (The Class).

Released into a cold and uncaring world and criminally underseen in 2016, Raw is finally given its due by Second Sight with an excellent Blu-ray package this April. Not having seen it since the cinema, we were keen for a revisit, to see (and hear) what the encode was like and dig into the extras. Being a Second Sight release this was an absolute pleasure.

Justine (Marillier) is a shy, vegetarian, virgin freshman at a French veterinary school that her parents also attended. Her older sister, Alexier (Rumpf), is a senior there but if Justine was hoping for any special treatment to help her avoid the hazing during rush week, she is sorely mistaken. 

Justine, her gay male room, Adrien (Oufella), and the rest of the first year are subjected to an intense rite of passage — French veterinary school seems super intense!! — that sees the hard-partying equalised by having their beds tossed out the window, getting soaked in blood, crawling around car parks and forced to down shots with rabbit kidney chasers.

Following her first taste of flesh, Justine starts to feel an unsatisfiable hunger that even gas station shwarma and uncooked chicken breasts cannot sate. She is soon swearing, going HAM at parties, speaking out instead of cowering and discovering and embracing her sexuality. But Justine is going too hard too fast and becoming more bloodthirsty and animalistic. 

As she goes to further and further extremes to abide her lusts there are plenty of stomach-churning gross-out moments. No holds or bites are barred and Ducournau doesn’t allow us to look away for a second. Her film is bold and stylish and full of brilliantly composed shots and iconic imagery set among the oppressive brutalist architecture of the college campus. Raw is a queasy cannibalistic coming-of-age classic that with this release will hopefully receive the wider attention that it deserved five years ago.

The feature video encode is artefact free, perfectly capturing the film’s colour and mod. The DTS 5.1 audio is punchy with clear dialogue and a flawless reproduction of the film’s slick sound mixing moves and wonderful soundtrack and evocative score by Jim Williams (Possessor and Kill List).

The disc is also stacked and packed with special features, including two audio commentaries. The first is with writer-director Ducournau and film critic Emma Westwood and is a great immediately-after listen that pulls everything together and identifies and examines all the foreshadowing. Westwood is a brilliant host, asking intelligent questions and bleeding Ducournau dry of every interesting factoid possible.

The second commentary, by film critic Alexandra West, an expert on French-Extreme horror is interesting and wide-ranging. West puts Raw in all kinds of context and is an extremely likeable commentator – getting blown away while watching it just as we do too.

‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ is a fifteen-minute interview with the film’s star Garance Marillier. Seeing Marillier out of character is fascinating and makes you even more impressed with the transformative performance she gives in the film. The questions are fairly predictable and basic, but it is good to know her background and how she came to and approached the role nonetheless.

‘Making Ends Meat’ is another quarter-of-an-hour interview, this time picking the brains of the film’s producer: Jean des Forȇts. It’s a little dry, to be honest, but the value is in hearing a money-man talk about what was attractive to him about the project and how he went about making it happen and selling it.

‘In the Name of Raw’ is a massive forty-eight-minute interview with the film’s writer-director Julia Ducournau. It’s a sit-down face-to-face, shot for French streaming platform FILMOTV, that is a serious examination of the filmmaker and her piece. She spills on the writing and rewriting of the movie and how she came up with all the pieces and made them fit together. It’s good to finally see her face and she is relaxed and comes across as very cool and collected, smart and analytical of her work and rad in a sweet leather jacket.

‘A Family Affair’ is a video essay by film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that is too short at thirteen minutes. Heller-Nicholas has fast become one of my favourite presences on releases from Second Sight and Arrow, and here she cleverly analyses the film in chronological order like a condensed and audible BFI Modern Classic.

‘Raw À Votre Goût’ (As You Like) is a fourteen-minute featurette with Julia Ducournau being interviewed film critic Emma Westwood. The audio quality isn’t great and some of the questions are pretty basic, but this piece focuses in on how Ducournau got into filmmaking and where Raw came from.

‘Quick Bites’ is another interview with Julia Ducournau conducted by the returning Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. It’s very short but is about audience reactions to the film, the film’s use of tech and how Justine is basically Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I love but had not ever crossed my mind until then!) – smart spots that fill in gaps in elements not previously discussed.

‘Genre Matters’ is a fascinating all-female panel discussion from the 2016 edition of Monster Fest that is a whopping hour long and features Ducournau alongside Marisa Brown (producer of zombie kangaroo short, Waterborne), short horror filmmaker Heidi Lee Douglas (Little Lamb), Mattie Do (Dearest Sister), Donna McRae (Johnny Ghost) and Isabel Peppard (Butterflies) discussing genre films and festivals and what working in this space is like, what they think about it and how they function within it.

The ‘Australian Premiere Introduction’ is exactly what is says on the tin, with the Monster Fest film festival director — the awesome Kier-la Janisse (creator of the forthcoming folk horror documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched) briefly introducing the film and the filmmaker to an excited opening-night audience. While the ‘Australian Premiere Q&A with Julia Ducournau and Kier-La Janisse’ is the Q&A that took place afterwards. At forty-two-minutes it’s not a puff piece and Kier-la is an insightful host still managing to get yet more different stuff out of Ducornau. Rarely, for a Q&A thrown open to the audience (meow), the audience questions are decent too.

Rounding things out are two deleted scenes clocking in at four and a half minutes. Neither being excised take anything away from the film, but it is interesting to see what was (rightly) removed nonetheless, the materials being Justine having a freakout during a cow ultrasound lecture and helping Adrien into bed when he comes home drunk. 

As well as all that, the Blu-ray comes in a rigid slipcase with a booklet featuring new essays by Hannah Woodhead and Emma Westwood plus an interview with Julia Ducournau by Lou Thomas. There are also three collectors’ art cards, with an exclusive fourth one exclusive to Second Sight store customers.

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An excellent, beautiful, horrifying film on a gorgeous, overflowing disc, Raw is released on limited edition Blu-ray by Second Sight Films on the 26th of April.

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