Friday, December 07, 2007

Triumph of the Other Verhoeven

One of the year's best foreign films is Black Book, a suspense thriller set in Holland during the Nazi occupation by Paul Verhoeven.

Yes, that Paul Verhoeven - the man behind the lens of Robocop, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls has another side, on display primarily in Dutch productions.

His Dutch work has given us a classic twisted indie film, The Fourth Man, and two epic thrillers set during the occupation, Soldier of Orange, which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1978, and this year's Black Book.

While 'Orange' was also a coming of age film following the fate of college buddies fighting in the resistance, 'Book,' based on a true story, focuses on the long, scary, bumpy ride of an attractive Jewish singer running for her life who joins the resistance. One unique element is a gang that falsely promises to help rich Jews escape and than betrays and robs them instead. Several killer plot twists make this film a standout.

As always, the five parameters of criticism:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: "Nazis! Shit! What Now?'

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
'blonde buxom Jewess
in endless predicaments
shows plenty of spunk'

3. Oblique Comments: I understood the Dutch, the German, and the Hebrew, a balm for my ego, if not for the sore throat I had while watching it. They don't make enough film in and about Holland - the Dutch people are extraordinarily interesting, humorous, resilient, and complex.

4. Insight: Verhoeven is a master of pacing and adrenaline - it's a pleasure to see these qualities infused in a personally complex, historically important story, as opposed to 'Robocop.' Verhoeven infuses 'Black Book' with a sensibility as 'large' as Hollywood while retaining authenticity - his actors grab and hold your attention, like Hollywood stars rather than the seasoned Dutch theater and film actors they are. Whatever this cost to make, I bet it looks much more expensive than it is, even with the value of the euro.

5. Metacritic Link: 71 average with 34 reviews - not bad for Verhoeven.

And here's the trailer....

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