Saturday, November 4, 2017
Food for Thought
This is my entry in the Food in Film Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings.
I often wonder what people think of me and how stable my mind must be... not that it would change anything if I did know... I just wonder...
I told Kristina and Ruth that I wanted to go a different and quirkier route with this topic, as is my wont on occasion. Think of all the movies that have mouth-watering meals, excellent haute cuisine cooking and wonderful cooks standing over beaming patrons. Is there anything more comforting than a well cooked and well served meal? Well... maybe if it's not too outré...
"Outré" is putting it mildly for the two movies discussed today. You might want to think twice when you try that new restaurant down the street after hearing about these joints. If you think twice about the turnover rate of stray cats near the Chinese place down the street, prepare to get really wary about the neighborhood mom and pop place next door.
I really enjoy black comedy. Note: if by "black" comedy your first thought is Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, you are in the wrong universe. Black comedy, also dark comedy, is a term used to describe a medium (films, but also plays and the like) that take very serious subjects and turn them into a darkly humorous form. Also called "gallows humor", it was first coined in the 30's by a French writer to describe some of Johnathan Swift's writings. Swift once wrote that poor Irish people ought to sell their children to the rich to be used as food. But the term has also been applied to writings even as early as ancient Greek writer Aristophanes.
Eating Raoul (1982):
Paul (Paul Bartel) and Mary Bland (Mary Woronov) are a straight-laced couple living in abject denial of the sexual mores of their apartment. The two are married, but other than a little hugging and kissing, they are not really sexually active. (They sleep in separate beds...just like the old 50's sitcom married couples did).
Their neighbors , in fact seemingly the whole apartment building however, are really into the swinger scene, with all the different sexual styles and appetites that entails. Paul works in a liquor store, but is the ultimate wine snob, and gets fired because he refuses to sell some cheap wine that the owner has in stock and also because he bought a case of $400 a bottle wine, but the clientele who frequent the shop haven't got that kind of spendable income.
Meanwhile on the home front, Paul and Mary want to buy a house in the country and open up their own home-style kitchen, but they haven't got the money that the realtor is asking, and to make matters worse, someone else keeps offering more money, causing them to have to keep upping their own offer for the place.
Paul comes home one day to find Mary being molested by a swinger who strayed from the party being held in their building and kills him with a frying pan. Finding him with a large sum of money, they decide to ditch the body in the trash compactor and pocket the money. After killing a second straying swinger, the two decide there is some decent money to be had doing this.
They decide to advertise in a swinger's magazine, with the help of Doris (Susan Saiger), a stay-at-home mom who makes money on the side as a dominatrix.
While out one day, Paul finds an ad for a locksmith who does cheap work. Because wine snob Paul has a pretty decent collection of vintage wines they call Raoul Mendoza (Robert Beltran). Raoul, it turns out, has ulterior motives for installing burglar systems...he also robs his clientele after installing their security systems.
As such, he happens to break into the Bland's place after they have just killed another swinger but have not yet disposed of the body. The three come up with a plan that benefits all three. The Blands will keep the money and Raoul takes the bodies away, where he sells them to a dog food company and shares the profits with the Blands.
All seemingly goes well until one day Paul is out when a "client" shows up, and tries to rape Mary. Raoul happens to come in and strangles the would-be rapist. He then proceeds to woo Mary who is charmed by his demeanor (and his Thai Stick cigarette...). Although Paul does not know what went on, he begins to suspect, and with Doris, tries to scare Raoul into leaving the country. None of these ruses works, and Raoul makes plans to get rid of Paul instead and take Mary for his wife.
Be sure to stay for the finale of this movie. You'll get to see why it was titled "Eating Raoul"...
It never really is clear what happened to society in this movie, but from the appearance of the landscape, there must have been a nuclear war. In this post apocalyptic world in France, food is in short supply. They use bags of lentils and corn in lieu of money. In one apartment building, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), a butcher, runs a shop on the bottom floor to cater to his clientele. He sells them meat which, it becomes clear, is not your typical meat.
Clapet runs ads in the newspaper advertising for a handyman. Once the unaware handymen have been fattened up, Clapet kills them and sells their "meat" as meat. It seems most of the residents are in on the ruse. For sure, his daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) knows. She falls in love with the new hire, Louison (Dominique Pinon) and alternately tries to help him escape or convince her father to let him go.
The apartment building is filled with other equally bizarre characters. The best is Aurore (Silvie Laguna), a woman who is haunted by voices she thinks are in her head and tries various Rube Goldbergesque ways of committing suicide.
Also funny are a guerilla group of outcasts who live below the city in the sewers and whom Julie entreats to help her get Louison out of her father's hands. Of course, they botch the job and kidnap the wrong person.
A warning to the potential viewer, both of these movies are obviously not family friendly (unless you are very liberal about what you let your kids watch...) Also the second film is entirely in French, so unless you are fluent in French, you'll have to deal with subtitles (always a potential problem with some viewers.)
Whew. I'm getting hungry now. There's a new place that just opened up across town that advertises the "best baby back ribs"... (or maybe it says "baby ribs"...I'm not sure.