Browsing: Paul Verhoeven

Film Festival Black-Book

Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book was the first film he made in his native Holland since moving out to Hollywood to fill our eyes with graphically violent sci-fi and sex 20 years earlier. It also may be his finest film. I realize people would argue for the gritty satire of RoboCop (1987) or the psychological underpinnings of Total Recall (1990) or some of his early Dutch films, but this one has everything Verhoeven is known for, that is sex and violence, while also achieving an actual storyline that is involving and even emotional.

Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Holland, the film tells the harrowing story of Rachael Stein (Carice van Houten), a Jewish woman who joins the Dutch resistance after her family and a boat of Jewish people are gunned down by Nazis as they attempt to cross the border into Belgium. Rachael was the only one to escape the ambush and is smuggled back into The Hague by the Dutch Resistance.

Reviews Hollow_Man_1

The long-loved tale of the Invisible Man is turned on its head by Hollow Man, from director Paul Verhoeven. This specific incantation tells the story of Sebastian (Kevin Bacon) and Linda (Elisabeth Shue), two top scientists that are at the top of their fields who also have perfected the perfect serum for making living creates invisible. It works well on their test subjects, the subjects being gorillas, but they don’t have permission to test it on humans yet. That doesn’t stop Sebastian, as he convinces his easily persuaded team to let him be the guinea pig. It works, but now the problem is bringing Sebastian back. As countless tries to make him whole again fall short, he starts to lose what little sanity he had left, and becomes a perverse, wretched sort of monster. The team must stop him, at all costs…

Film Festival Basic-Instinct-1992

Paul Verhoeven’s American film output established unique stylistic flourishes that would seem alien coming from Hollywood studios as he created visions of strange dystopian capitalist wet-nightmares, gratuitous and superficial sexuality that was deliberately confrontational and highly stylized, and unflinching ultraviolence that exhibited at an outsider’s interpretation of comfortable mainstream sensibilities. Like the American output of Douglas Sirk in the 1950s or F.W. Murnau in the 1920s, Verhoeven’s unique style forged new interpretations of what came before while simultaneously paying homage to the films that influenced his trajectory as a filmmaker. These transplanted masters of cinema came to Hollywood with a well established arsenal of styles and techniques, granting them the expert ability to deconstruct the base elements of Hollywood genre films and contribute new dimensions forged from their unique auteur voices that had been honed in their early filmmaking which was often inspired by Hollywood films in a cycle of complementary influence that created unique and unusual aesthetics and self-referential styles. Basic Instinct is a natural link in the evolutionary chain of the Hollywood thriller, steeped in the intrigue, ambiguity, raw sexuality, and hyper-realistic violence of Verhoeven’s earlier work as shades of The Fourth Man and Turkish Delight combine with unmistakable Hitchcock influences to create something simultaneously familiar and boldly unique.

TIFF Film Series Starship-Troopers-Review-image-1-1997

Heinlein’s militaristic novel did what most sci-fi books do, they talk about the future while commenting on the present. Heinlein saw the rise and fall of major military powers in World War II, creating his support for nuclear weapon testing and the novel to espouse those views. Similarly, but with different intentions, Paul Verhoeven made the film after two major and controversial U.S. involved wars: the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) and The Bosnian War (1992-1995). The word controversial is key here. Motives for international involvement in these conflicts were never quite clear, protests surrounded the war proclamations, and while the Persian Gulf never recovered, the Bosnian War inflicted an overwhelming damage among all those involved. It is with those facts in mind that I’m reminded of the quick, but subtle change of reportage of war. There was little bloodshed shown, and if any it would be via radar or bloodless black and white satellite imagery.

Reviews showgirls-2

“I’m going to get you the best meal in town!” Cut to Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), exotic dancer, eating a hamburger. This is Verhoeven’s satirical artistry, a quality of his film that critics either misunderstood or had no taste for when it was first released. One would expect a high class meal if it’s to be called the “best”, just as one first expects high art for a film to be considered great. Verhoeven challenges our understanding of high and low culture by saying, well, honestly, hamburgers are the best! In many ways, Showgirls is a McDonald’s hamburger: it may not be good for you; it may not be pretty; it is deplorable for many reasons; but it still might be the tastiest meal. Just as the actor is assumed to sincerely enjoy the hamburger, Verhoeven says that even indecent “low-brow” filmmaking can be the best if we choose not to come into the picture with rigid criteria for what makes a film acceptable. The film thus challenges critiques, satirizes Hollywood, and is at once a denigration and celebration of both high and low culture. The question is: does intentionally making a bad film, as a form of satire, make it good?

NP Approved Robocop

Sometime in the future, at least the future from 1987’s perspective, children will be glued to their TV sets by the adventures of T.J. Lazer, a space cowboy armed with a laser pistol and a devil-may-care attitude. It’s the sort of sci-fi hokum that entertains young boys and adults afraid of their own adulthood. It’s the sort of realm you might expect to find a robot cop.

But T.J. Lazer is the joke and RoboCop is the reality in Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classic; a triumphant action movie, moral tale and biting satire. The audaciousness of science fiction and the commercial nature of the action movie are realities that RoboCop proves itself to be aware of throughout, and also hypocritically revels in the freedoms they provide while critiquing their ills and inanities.

Reviews MV5BMTk0ODM1OTg5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM4NjczNA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_

Paul Verhoeven was once described as a one man Dutch film industry, a writer and director who cut his teeth in his homeland before making the successful transition to Hollywood and the mainstream. Early works were well received internationally on the award and festival circuits but it wasn’t until his first American film Flesh + Blood in 1985 that Verhoeven established himself as a filmmaker to be revered.

Set in 16th century plague-ridden Italy the film’s plot is fairly loose. Martin (Rutger Hauer) leads a motley band of mercenaries who find themselves betrayed by their King and on the run. They retaliate by kidnapping the King’s future daughter-in-law Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and after receiving what the group perceive as divine guidance, they set up home in a castle after forcibly evicting the current residents. Prince Steven (Tom Burlinson) is obviously wronged by the disappearance of his fiancée and pledges to rescue her, besieging the castle. As infighting threatens to divide Martin’s fugitives Agnes inevitably begins to develop feelings for her captor and the film settles into attrition as neither party will back down.

Reviews fourthman_1-1

A spider traverses a neglected crucifix to find its struggling prey in one of life’s little forgotten melodramas, carried out on a shelf of religious artifacts in the bedroom of a tormented writer, creating pithy symbolic imagery from the mundane and opening Paul Verhoeven’s enigmatic pshychosexual thriller, The Fourth Man with overtones of danger and the sinister macabre fascinations of Catholicism. The writer operates in realms of narrative ambiguity, seemingly caught in one of his own anecdotes forged in the traditions of oral history where the parameters and facts of a story can change as long as the end result services truth or a sense of divine mystery. He chooses Catholicism in an era when belief in the intangible is unpopular and seemingly at odds with intellect, but believes that science and religion are both realms of the imaginative and can drive the human animal to higher means of understanding. Religious imagery manifests itself everywhere in the decreasing objective certainty of the world Gerard Reve occupies, and he sees halos in the peeling of an apple, saints in ordinary faces, and Christ in the divine body of a lover’s lover.

Reviews spetters_01

Spetters is Paul Verhoven’s fifth feature length film and his penultimate release in his native Netherlands. It’s controversial representation of youth culture and sexuality angered many audiences when it was first released in 1980 and still manages to shock today.

The story follows three working-class motorbike enthusiasts living in a small town near Rotterdam who have ambitions dreams about motorbike racing. When their hero arrives in town, the national motorcross champion Witkamp (Rutger Hauer); their lives become altered drastically in three very different (and ludicrous) ways.

Reviews soldier-of-orange

The flag of the Netherlands and orchestral war music kicks off Paul Verhoeven’s two and a half hour war epic, Soldier of Orange, an unconventional story that shows us that wars aren’t always won and lost on conventional battlefields and that nationalistic pride can manifest itself in many ways when one has no choice but to flee to neighboring shores to fight for their homeland. Archival newsreel footage triumphantly heralds the return of the queen of the House of Orange to her homeland as thousands of cheering Dutch citizens fill the streets, all earnestly patriotic for queen and country after a time of grave national tumult. This was a hard earned victory for the Dutch as their official participation in the war had ended as abruptly as it had begun. On May 9th, 1940 German planes bombed Rotterdam. On May 10th, the Dutch forces surrendered and their nation was placed under an occupation that lasted five years. The revolutionaries portrayed in this film are forced to go underground and seek covert ways to abscond to England to fight for their country in a time of Netherland occupation by Nazi Germany and old friends and long time neighbors become potential enemies as Europe was being torn asunder by history’s most reviled tyrannical maniac. It’s a war epic that takes place on university campuses and family beaches as Verhoeven shows us the determining factors that dictate the outcome of a war can often be as simple as having the right kind of currency to operate a payphone.

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