Monday, October 07, 2019

Eating Raoul

Directed and co-starring Paul Bartel and written by Bartel and Richard Blackburn, Eating Raoul is the story of a prudish couple whose lifestyle is threatened by swingers living in their apartment building until an accident gives them an idea to get rid of them and realize their dream to open a restaurant. The film is a dark comedy that explore different lifestyles and what a couple would do to maintain their safe and calm lifestyle. Also starring Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Susan Saiger, and Buck Henry. Eating Raoul is a witty and whimsical film from Paul Bartel.

The film is the simple story of this couple who are considered snobbish and prudish due to their lack of interest towards sex as they try to raise money to buy a house for a restaurant they want to create yet they are threatened by the antics of swingers who live in their apartment building. It’s a film that sort of makes fun of the world of swinging and some of the silliness of the lifestyle while there’s this couple who are totally square and find themselves with an idea of killing swingers and stealing money to fund their restaurant as it happened by accident. The film’s screenplay by Paul Bartel and Richard Blackburn follows the lives of Paul and Mary Bland (Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov respectively) as the former just got fired from a liquor store for refusing to sell awful cheap wine while the latter is a nurse often sexually harassed by horny patients.

Their problems are worsen by horny swingers in their building as one of them who is a patient of Mary breaks into their apartment and tries to have his way with Mary until Paul hits him with a frying pan and the guy is dead. Upon realizing how much money swingers have, they turn to Doris the Dominatrix (Susan Saiger) who gives them advice on what to do as she isn’t entirely fond of swingers either while the film’s second act begins with the arrival of a locksmith named Raoul (Robert Beltran) who is also a burglar as he gets wind of what the Bland are doing as he helps them in favor of a cut. Yet, their alliance with Raoul would cause trouble where Paul would learn what Raoul does with the bodies but also something much more.

Bartel’s direction does have elements of style in terms of its approach to absurdist humor while much of the compositions he creates are straightforward. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Bartel play into the world of sex shops and the swinging lifestyle in a comical manner while presenting the Blands as a couple who sleep in separate beds yet they do love each other. There are some wide shots in a few scenes yet much of Bartel’s direction involves close-ups and medium shots that include a few long shots to play out the drama and some of the humor. Notably in scenes that play into the Blands trying to kill some swingers with Mary playing some form of fantasy as it is played for laughs with some dark humor. Once Raoul gets involved, the film’s mayhem does increase but it also lead to some chilling and dark moments about what Raoul does with the bodies but also some of the money he makes though it lead to some funny moments of Paul trying to figure out what he’s doing with help from Doris. The humor as well as some of the approach to suspense and comedy play into the third act as it play into Raoul’s activities as well as the Blands taking extra steps to reach their dreams of opening a restaurant. Overall, Bartel crafts a weird yet delightfully fun film about a prudish couple who kill swingers for money to fund their own dreams of a healthy restaurant.

Cinematographer Gary Thieltges does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in terms of its visuals with some low-key yet colorful lighting for some of the swinger parties. Editor Alan Toomayan does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor and suspense. Production designer Robert Schulenberg does fantastic work with the look of the Blands’ apartment with their collectables and rack of fine wine as well as the more outrageous look of the swingers’ party. Sound editors Val Kulowsky and Christopher T. Welch do terrific work with the sound as it is largely straightforward along with the way music is heard on a location or in another room. The film’s music by Arlon Ober is wonderful for its playful and kitsch-like score that feature some humorous moments in the film while its soundtrack features an array of music ranging from easy listening to a Spanish cover of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels’ Devil with a Blue Dress On by Los Lobos.

The film’s marvelous casting feature some notable small roles from co-writer Richard Blackburn as the real estate agent James, John Paragon as a sex shop owner who gives Paul a hard time, John Shearin as a patient of Mary who would later try to harass her at her home, Edie McClurg as a woman in fur at a swingers party, Richard Paul as the liquor store owner who wants to sell shitty cheap wine, Ed Begley Jr. as a perverse hippie, and Buck Henry in a terrific small role as a horny bank manager in Mr. Leech who wants to have his way with Mary. Susan Saiger is excellent in a dual role as Doris the Dominatrix and as a receptionist nurse at the hospital where she is full of personality as the former who isn’t fond of swingers while helps Paul find out more about Raoul to see what he does while Saiger’s role in the latter as a nurse is more low-key.

Robert Beltran is excellent as Raoul Mendoza as a locksmith who is also a house burglar that helps the Blands make more money while also making some money on the side as he also has a keen interest in Mary for sexual pleasure. Finally, there’s Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov in amazing performances in their respective roles as Paul and Mary Bland as a prudish and snobbish couple with love for wine and nutritious food who are dealing with horny swingers in their apartment building. Bartel displays that curiosity and frustration as a man that just cares about giving people good wine but later is filled with jealousy for Raoul later in the film as he provides a low-key approach to comedy. Woronov provides some charm into her role as well as someone who is curious about sex and pot although she is conflicted as it relates to her encounters with Raoul.

Eating Raoul is a marvelous film from Paul Bartel that features enjoyable performances from Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, and Susan Saiger. Along with its offbeat look at the world of swingers, the film is a strange yet exuberant comedy that isn’t afraid to get dark while also finding a way to keep on bringing in the laughs. In the end, Eating Raoul is a remarkable film from Paul Bartel.

© thevoid99 2019


Brittani Burnham said...

Where do you find this stuff? lol

SJHoneywell said...

In a world where I didn't know who wrote and directed this, there's a significant chance that I would have assumed this was a John Waters film. It has a lot of that vibe in my opinion, from the sets to the low budget feel to the camp acting.

This is not meant as an insult in any way.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Turner Classic Movies. There's a schedule that shows what will come in a month or 2 as I always check it out and get a reminder of it. I think it's available on the Criterion Channel as it is also available on DVD/Blu-Ray from Criterion. TCM always show weird cult films on the weekends late at night.

@SJHoneywell-It sounds like a premise from a John Waters film but Waters is far more outrageous as this was made by someone who shares Waters' sensibility in humor but it's more about those who are a bit square than the characters we often meet in John Waters films. I didn't take it as an insult. I love John Waters and I wish he would return to filmmaking. It's because Hollywood wouldn't fund anything he does.