Fabrice Eboué’s Some Like It Rare (originally called Barbaque) opens with meat – or more specifically a prime, marbled fillet of beef being lovingly sliced, hand-massaged and packaged by butcher Vincent Pascal (played by Eboué) while his wife Sophie (Marina Foïs) and their sole paying client (Colette Sodoyez) look on with a mild amusement that soon turns to incredulous impatience as the process is drawn out for far too long. Schlubby Vincent adores meat a little too much – but the fortunes of the Boucherie Pascal have long since waned, under the pressure of a market vanishing to trendier diets, of fierce competition from his more successful (and less quality-conscious) rival-in-butchery Marc Brachard (Jean-François Cayrey), and of regular vandalistic attacks by local guerrilla vegans. His marriage too is failing, as Sophie, condemning her husband for having “no balls – and definitely no spunk”, transfers her nocturnal attentions to her beloved true-crime programmes about serial killers.
Vincent needs a miracle to turn things around, and anyone attuned to the special brand of butchery from, say, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) or Dan Pringle’s K-Shop (2016) will have a good idea what that miracle will be. After semi-accidentally running over one of the vegans who attacked his shop, and then (again semi-accidentally) selling on some of the meat that he has cut from the corpse, he discovers that customers are willing to queue around the block for his ‘Iranian pork’. With demand now high on their latest meat products, Vincent begins, at Sophie’s urging, actively to hunt down more vegans, even as husband and wife discover their own taste for human flesh developing alongside a renewed carnality in their relationship.
The film’s English-language title riffs on Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), as an indicator of this cannibal comedy’s farcical tone – although here the two principal characters do not dress as the opposite sex to escape the mafia, but rather disguise themselves as anti-meat activists to lure in vegans for the chopping block. Their increasingly indiscriminate killing spree represents their simultaneous rise and fall, even as the Melun community around them is exposed in all its casual racism and intergenerational conflict. For their town is a microcosm of France’s food chain, where dietary choices reflect all manner of political clashes. “We’re open-minded butchers,” Vincent reassures Lucas (Victor Meutelet), the ideologically puritanical and irritantly preachy vegan boyfriend of their daughter Chloé (Lisa Do Couto Texeira). The ideal viewer for Some Like It Rare will be similarly omnivorous: tolerant of bad as well as good taste, able simultaneously to digest arguments for and against meat-eating, and open to accommodating a not altogether likeable (or even conscionable) couple as they carve a path to success and love in a dog-eat-dog world.
Slyly funny and mildly shocking, Some Like It Rare gets us on side with murderous characters who really deserve little sympathy, simply by surrounding them with a town full of folk who are also, in their different ways, awful, awful people. Except poor Winnie (Tom Pezier), who gives this otherwise deeply amoral film an unexpected moral – if weakly beating – heart, and leaves anyone who has partaken of the sweet, sweet barbecue with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Strap: Meat is murder: Fabrice Eboué’s cannibalism comedy offers a taste of France’s shifting food chain.