Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE FOURTH MAN (1983) - Paul Verhoeven


Imagine, if you will, a threesome in which a Spellbound era Alfred Hitchcock vies for sexual dominance with Passion of the Christ's Mel Gibson while Gregg Araki takes them both from behind. This might give you some small idea of the perversely random mix of styles on display in this film. Yet, somehow, Verhoeven makes it all work. You want penises snipped in half in close-up by a large pair of scissors? You got it. You want overbearing Biblical references sandwiched in between? No problem.


Or maybe a nursing baby on a train with a makeshift halo above its head is too subtle for you. Fine. I offer you "Jesus in a Speedo."


I first heard of the The Fourth Man as the Dutch early work Verhoeven supposedly pilfered for his stateside blockbuster Basic Instinct. I see the parallels. The Fourth Man is awash with bisexual authors losing themselves in their work, femme fatales wielding sharpened objects (barber's scissors instead of an ice pick), and more than a few shot-for-shot sex scenes. But The Fourth Man is that and so much more. It is a long, leering peek into the dark, twisted mind of Mr. Verhoeven, minus the generic Hollywood thriller conventions, with Christ allusions thrown in for good measure. Be warned: It's not a pretty place to visit. But it sure is fun.

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