Archive for Paul Verhoeven

Girlfight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2015 by dcairns

While waiting for today’s edition of The Forgotten, here’s a clip you can enjoy, if that’s the word, from René Clément’s award-winning GERVAISE (a956). A lavish and rambunctious Zola adaptation, it sets out its stall early with this savage, raucous and not-even-safe-for-work fight scene in which lead Maria Schell demonstrates her fighting spirit, which will carry her through the story and everything Zola, assisted by scenarists Aurenche and Bost, can throw at her.

The film also features Jany Holt, heroine of the resistance, and also, as Schell’s opponent here, Suzy Delair, who we cannot, sadly, credit as a heroine of the resistance. That goodwill trip to the Fatherland stills sits uncomfortably in her CV (but hey! Film is a collaborative medium!)

This scene reminded me strongly of the nasty girlfight in Paul Verhoeven’s A GIRL CALLED KATY TIPPEL, to the extent that I’m trying to recall if the films have anything else in common. Can anyone help?

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SOCIAL OPPRESSION with a Regency stripe — our director is never shy about letting the production design tell the story. I hate this kind of narrative — the catalogue of woes, strung together in loose novelistic fashion. It’s only slightly more bearable in a period movie than in  Ken Loach modern job. But the filmmaker’s skill here, and the colossal production values slathered over everything, do make it quite watchable. And the explicitness — a vomit-spattered drunk, the Delair posterior exposed above — must have been pretty shocking at the time. And that urge to shove unpleasantness in the audience’s face was bound to appeal to the young Verhoeven if he was out there.

While you’re reeling from the sight of Suzy Delair’s arse (or her stand-in’s), I’ll just hit you with a couple of links to older pieces about Clément films ~

…AND HOPE TO DIE

THE DEADLY TRAP

THE BABYSITTER

I’d forgotten that I’d written so many Forgottens on Clement.

There’s also this recent piece on LES MAUDITS and this one on THE DAY AND THE HOUR.

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Film Directors with their Shirts Off #56749 Cecil Blount DeMille

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by dcairns

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Cecil B. DeMille is such a figure of dignity! Always Dignity! that I despaired of ever finding a shirtless image of the Great Man for my occasional series on cineastes sans chemise. And yet, in Robert S. Birchard’s estimable volume Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, we find not one but two such images. The first shows the entire unit of FEET OF CLAY (1924) basking in the sun. Cecil wears what is either a one-piece bathing suit or a very tight dark vest and shorts. Probably the former. He still has his pipe in though.

But the above image really does it — FLESH is what the public screams for, and Cecil is not one to disoblige a screaming public. He’s chatting to Herbert Marshall and Claudette Colbert on the set of FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934), effortlessly maintaining his sang-froid and keeping his smoking materials lit at the same time, proving that true dignity can be maintained in any circumstance, even while exposing one’s moobs.

DeMille may be showing solidarity with his leading lady, who goes nude in the film. Bathing under a waterfall, Claudette is filmed in extreme longshot so that we will have to wait for the Blu-ray to get busy with a magnifying glass and see if it really is her bottom. My theory is that DeMille here is disrobing just as Paul Verhoeven did on STARSHIP TROOPERS when some of his young actors were reluctant to strip for a communal shower scene. (While one applauds the Dutchman’s nerve, it isn’t really the same thing — his ass wasn’t going to be put on film and projected at millions of people.)

I guess the DeMilles I should be checking out are MANSLAUGHTER, THE WHISPERING CHORUS and other of his more sophisticated dramas, but somehow I always just want to watch the last half of MADAME SATAN and let my eyeballs rejoice at the costumes of Mitchell Leisen.

The Two Tiers

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , , , , , on September 20, 2013 by dcairns

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Neil Blomkamp’s ELYSIUM has the same strengths and weaknesses as his DISTRICT 9, which at least shows he doesn’t absolutely need Peter Jackson sitting on his shoulder to pull off a scifi splatterfest that yokes interesting ideas to the mayhem. I’m not aware of another FX movie this season that preaches in favour of universal health care, nor one with such a tasty design sense — GRAVITY is a more beautiful film by far, and UNDER THE SKIN a more peculiar one, but if you’ve been starved of strong bloody mayhem since Verhoeven departed Hollywood, as I feel I have, this movie will certainly give you your dismemberment fix.

The basic premise of a divided society has been a staple of SF movies since METROPOLIS, and conceptually all Blomkamp adds is that, rather that sinking the proles beneath the Earth, he elevates the elite to a space station. And ties the results to modern American life as Romero did in LAND OF THE DEAD. He also equips the 1% with domestic med-bays which are able to heal virtually any injury short of death. This technology is apparently free, which begs the question why the top dogs guard it so jealously — one of a number of logical flaws which you have to overlook in order to enjoy Matt Damon’s grand guignol suffering, the Peckinpah wet-dream carnage, or the lovely and often original production design.

There’s also Blomkamp’s trademark shakicam, which at times gives the impression that he’s rested his lens on a washing machine as it hits the spin cycle. This inevitably costs him coherence, and there’s a crucial bit of business involving a grenade during the final hero-villain scrap which just isn’t discernible at all. You can figure out afterwards what happened, but having to re-frame and re-edit on the filmmaker’s behalf does take you out of the movie. Not many things take me out of a movie short of an armed escort, but that does.

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The sheer excess of poor Damon’s brutalizing made me wonder if I wasn’t seeing another kind of Verhoeven homage — the Killer Christ Figure (Robocop walks on water at the end of ROBOCOP — in order to stab a guy in the throat). The metallic exoskeleton he’s bolted into is like an articulated crucifix, and his other injuries include, if I recall correctly, not one but two stabs to the side, and an internal crown of thorns in the form of a direct-to-the-brain data upload of poisonously encrypted information. I don’t know what the biblical equivalent of the radiation overdose is, but we do know the Messiah gave off some kind of energy when he was reborn, because how else do we explain his bloody wrappings turning into photographic paper and capturing his image? And don’t give me all that Renaissance forgery bit.

But to return to the Passion of Max Da Costa — I dig how the orangey shanty-town sprawl of LA represents the have-nots, while the have’s live in a star-shaped space station whose interior looks like Beverly Hills. The metaphor is pretty clear, and if the film is not about Earth VS Space but about a divided America, then it’s presumably about Obamacare?

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I do think it’s a shame that the wideshot of the skyscrapers, fantasticated with platforms and extensions added on willy-nilly to deal with SOYLENT GREEN levels of overpopulation, never reappear after the establishing sequence — what a great setting for an action sequence those could be, with characters parkouring through the vertical barrio and leaping from tower to tower like Rick Baker in the DeLaurentiis KONG.

Fiona wanted to know what Jodie Foster was trying to do with her accent. I don’t rightly know. I think it’s a waste of the unrivaled naturalism she displayed as a kid, to see her so mannered and self-conscious, but I don’t know if it was a deliberate effect she was going for. Fiona also felt it was a shame that bad guy Sharlto Copley, who gives a very zestful performance, didn’t have a single line that wasn’t a crusty cliché. She’s not wrong. That we still enjoyed the film must be because enough interesting ideas and images survived the journey through Blomkamp’s mental mixmaster — if he could trust himself to slow down a little bit, we’d really have something.

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