Eating Raoul – Paul Bartel – 1982

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I really love Paul Bartel. He was reliably funny as an actor, with stellar timing and an extremely likeable bent, but as a director he was a fascinating artist to the bone. With such warm up features as the high-octane actioner Death Race 2000 and the weird and twisted Private Parts, Bartel established himself as a man whose pictures would surely laugh in the face of audience expectation. Eating Raoul is no exception and it is an incredibly delicate piece of cinema for being such a broad comedy about murder!

The Blands, (Bartel and a sexy Mary Woronov), want to open a restaurant in the country, but alas they are filled with money woes. After they accidentally kill an aggressive swinger in their apartment they rob him and get the idea to keep slaying and robbing swingers. The Blands see themselves as above everyone and we are told at the beginning of the film that these people are indicative of the state of Las Angeles itself. A dog eat dog world indeed.

See, I love the relationship these two people have.  It’s sweet and simple, and true and devoted. Unfortunately, they sleep in separate beds and I really don’t get it. Clearly, he isn’t satisfying her, because when Raoul shows up, he literally sweeps her off her feet. I’m not sure if these scenes are supposed to piss me off, but I hated Mary’s betrayal of Paul, and yet I’m un-phased by their wholesale dispensing of swinger douchers.

Raoul is scum, and Bartel has to cook up a villain who is worse than his protagonists. He is a thief who poses as someone who will secure your apartment against thieves. He is exactly the opposite of who he says he is. At least Paul and Mary have some values, well, at least concerning each other. Until she betrays him, their relationship is ideal. Well, you know, minus the murder part, and the sleeping in separate beds…come to think of it, these two are pretty weird.

Paul is such a great moral center to a movie whose heart is about as pitch black as possible. He is so damn relatable!  With his bald pudgy head and his droll delivery, he wins me over every time! I can’t help but root for this guy!

Mary is equally great, but I think maybe Mary Woronov is simply too sexy an actress for this part. He eyes also convey an extreme intelligence that I find quite attractive, but find wrong for her character.  Anyway, I’d have been perfectly fine with the film without all the infidelity, but I suppose Bartel is saying, that in cannibalistic, duplicitous Las Angeles, even your own cheating wife can be worthy of absolution. After all, she’s the only one who could ever understand Paul.

The end of the film is evocative of Titus Andronicus as Raoul is served to the Realtor who is helping them find the location for their country eatery. The end of the film is satisfying and happy, but I suppose I have a thing for Mary Woronov, so the betrayal of Mary Bland kind of cuts a bit.

Recommended for fans of Paul Bartel, cannibals, people who live in LA or wife-stealing thieves who deserve to be eaten.

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