Monday, November 14, 2011

KEETJE TIPPEL (1975) - Paul Verhoeven

After the excess and Dutch box office success of Turkish Delight, this is an odd choice of follow-up for Verhoeven. It shares the same two fantastic leads (Rutger Hauer and Monique Van de Ven) and deals with prostitution as a means of big city survival. But the period melodrama Keetje Tippel seems rather chaste considering the man already covered with the subject in Business is Business on a more farcical note, not to mention the utter perversity he got away with in Delight.

Don't get me wrong-- Keetje Tippel is a fine film, if a little underwhelming. The story follows a rather generic up-from-poverty, loss-of-innocence trajectory. The actors are fantastic across the board, and cinematographer Jan De Bont's visuals are 19th century pristine. Thee are a few signature Verhoeven "touches" sprinkled throughout: Keetje dunking a mean sweatshop co-worker's head in a vat of acidic dye, Keetje's mother forcing her to walk the streets for the first time so she can buy a huge phallic sausage for her dinner, Keetje stripping for an old john her first night at the Amsterdam brothel while her sister masturbates on a couch nearby. And did I mention the XXX-rated game of shadow puppets?

With scenes like these, I can't accuse Verhoeven of gunning for Oscar gold by taking on a historic period piece based on an acclaimed piece of literature. But I suspect Keetje Tippel may have been some kind of screwed stab at respectability. Shadow puppets aside, he mostly hits the mark.

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