Thursday, April 10, 2014

Film Atlas (Netherlands): Turkish Delight

Country: Netherlands
Film: Turkish Delight / Turks Fruit (1973)
Eric (Rutger Hauer) cudgels a man to death. Then he shoots Olga (Monique van de Van) in the face. A few minutes later he idly kills them again, but it's all only fantasy. Eric has other ways of channeling his frustration, namely self-abuse and serial womanizing. These play out in a montage of one-night-stands that are as weirdly inspired as they are shockingly frank. But nothing helps. Eric can't get over Olga. Flashback to two years earlier, when Eric loses his job as a Biblical sculptor and gets picked up by a beautiful redhead while hitchhiking. Their first encounters starts with a bang (a quickie in the driver's seat at a highway rest stop) and ends with an even bigger bang, the latter considerably less fun. Eric is so smitten that he tracks down Olga after the car crash, evading and eventually even winning over her protective, bourgeois parents. They marry and, though eking out only a bare existence, celebrate months of unbridled love and hot sex. But the lack of stability, or even a desire for it, takes its toll. When their passion can't find one outlet, it finds another, and they are soon tearing each other apart. Back in the present day Eric and Olga meet again, but unfortunately, love can't conquer all.

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is obsessed with sex. And nudity. And violence. And he isn't afraid to put that obsession, equal parts love and infatuation, on the big screen. He's a director of intense sensuality, over-the-top extremes and shameless self-indulgence. Not surprisingly he's the subject of frequent controversy, considered a genius by some and a philistine by others. He's had hits both commercially (RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct) and critically (Soldier of Orange, The Fourth Man, Black Book) and outright flops of devastating magnitude (Showgirls, Hollow Man). But through good times and bad Verhoeven has maintained his integrity, establishing himself as a prodigious auteur and winning fans through his willingness to film farther on the fringe than the mainstream dares.

Turkish Delight, his sophomore film, is his most fever-pitched and deeply felt. It's an outrageous, sexist, potentially offensive work, totally lacking in good taste or political correctness. It doesn't care if you like Eric and Olga (I'm not sure I do) or write them off as selfish, self-destructive and immature. It's also a film that's genuinely romantic, sexy, brave, rebellious and human, all while maintaining a spirited sense of humor. The film's style, like it's central couple, isn't subtle but it isn't stupid. Wide-angle close-ups and frolicking tracking shots skip across cluttered sets and down rainy streets, riding the relationship's ups and downs with rollercoaster energy and yet unflinching sensitivity. The soundtrack, characteristic of a bipolar relationship (and aren't they all?), is littered with jaunty pop music, pissed-off shouting, giddy laughter, sickly retching and passionate screams. Hollywood films only wish they could have sex [scenes] like this and whether they turn you on or fill you with repugnance, a reaction is guaranteed. And perhaps that's the best evidence of Verhoeven greatness: his persistent ability to generate real emotional, visceral, bodily reactions. And afterwards, you can argue about them.

My Favorites:
The Vanishing
Turkish Delight
Black Book
The Assault (1986)
A Question of Silence
The Fourth Man
Character (1997)
Twin Sisters

Major Directors:
Marleen Gorris, Paul Verhoeven

No comments: