Sunday, November 27, 2011

Paul Verhoeven

Anyone curating a World War II resistance fighter film festival would be wise to include Verhoeven's Soldier of Orange on its slate, if only as stylistic counterpoint to Melville's Army of Shadows. Where Melville's French Resistance ops go about their shadowy missions with quiet economy in scenes that are the definition of wire-taut suspense, Verhoeven's Dutch Resisters are a more boisterous, opportunistic lot, prone to folly, switching sides, even sleeping with the enemy when necessary. Maybe it's because the Dutch had less at stake on the surface of things than the French. Or maybe it's because Verhoeven sees war first and foremost as a good excuse for bad behavior.

Solider of Orange--like Keetje Tippel before it-- is Verhoeven in period piece mode. It's one of his more restrained efforts but maybe the first film on his resume to hint at the action dexterity he would later display in Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Verhoeven proves early on he knows his way around a battlefield scene as much as a bedroom scene. As for the politics of World War II-- Nazism, fascism, etc.-- Verhoeven's stance seems about as ambivalent as some of his side-switching protagonists. But, hey, who in their right mind looks to Verhoeven films for moral certitude?

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