I previously posted about EATING RAOUL but do not feel like I did the film justice, so I hope you enjoy this revisitation.
The 80s were an inflection point for deviant indie films, perhaps best encapsulated by John Waters and POLYESTER and HAIRSPRAY, but also surprise hits like EATING RAOUL. These were films that pointed the limelight on the disenfranchised folks living on the sidelines of society, especially those who were more sexually divergent and kinky.
Writer/director/actor Paul Bartlel’s piece is a brilliant work. EATING RAOUL is a perfect encapsulation of what indie films can be: they call out the hypocrisy of heteronormative people, of personal repression, but by having the protagonists — Mary & Paul Blank (yes, not a subtle surname. Also, the protagonist couple are played by mainstays Paul Barlet and Mary Woronov and retain their real first names for this work) — staged as a post-WWII TV version of couples, even down to the single beds.*
“Yet so popular with the broken and destitute.”
To quickly summarize: Paul & Mary are a very straight-laced couple, living in a building mostly inhabited by swingers. They have dreams of ditching their respective jobs as a liquor store employee and nurse in favor of opening their own restaurant. In order to do so, they have to raise $20K (later $25K) to buy the Victorian abode they want to house it.
Given their current jobs, they realize that’s not feasible. So, Mary posits herself as a dominatrix and they start murdering her clients and stealing their wallets to help fund their restaurant.
“And whatever they want to do? Stop if it draws blood.”
They start fretting about the security of their apartment and enlist the help of a security specialist, Raoul, who eventually shows his true colors as a thief. Mary becomes entwined with him, and matters escalate.
“I don’t mind paying cash for gash as long as it’s class.”
It is worth noting that EATING RAOUL did become somewhat of a mainstream hit, partially because of its sensationalism, but I like to think it’s mostly because of its wit and performances.
“We like B&D but we don’t like S&M. We met at the A&P but we don’t like labels.”
I cannot overstate what films like EATING RAOUL did for the youths of the 80s and 90s. These were eye-opening films that presented a completely different world, films that eschewed heteronormativity, films that allowed misfits like myself to feel seen and accepted, all while being enthralled and laughing the entire time and never shamed anyone, even the norms. Sadly, that era seems to be over, but like with everything, the pendulum will inevitably swing back.
“Mary, I just killed a man.”
“He was a man, honey. Now he’s just a bag of garbage.”
- As someone who is 1) an extremely light sleeper and 2) as someone who has dealt with abuse so I’m always on high alert, I don’t love the visual shorthand of two beds as sexual repression, because sleeping in separate beds can actually be a great thing for all parties involved, however: the message here is succinctly conveyed.