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Sunday, April 2, 2017

ZWARTBOEK / BLACK BOOK (2006)

Returning to the Netherlands, where his SHOWGIRLS-induced stench is less persistent, Paul Verhoeven also returns to the same sort of WWII Dutch Resistance tale that triggered his breakthrough in SOLDIER OF ORANGE/‘77. This one’s a big old-school war epic about a beautiful young Jewess on the run after her hiding place gets bombed and a brief family reunion is sabotaged. She lands in the middle of an ambitious resistance cell, assigned to romance a top Occupation Force Nazi Officer, collecting info, planting ‘bugs,’ working to save prisoners from execution . . . and falling in love with the enemy. It’s all only slightly less believable than Carole Lombard’s mission in Ernst Lubitsch’s comedic TO BE OR NOT TO BE/’42, but that’s hardly the main problem. The glitch is that every story turn is more ludicrous than the last, with Verhoeven turning all he touches coarse & childish. The technical chops are impeccable, the guy knows his stuff, but why paint everyone (heroes & villains) as disagreeable rotters? And a big hiss for an X-rated version of Shylock’s ‘Hath not a Jew’ list, swapping out ‘eyes, hands & senses’ to concentrate exclusively on ‘organs;’ specifically breasts & pussies. Helpfully illustrated, breathtakingly vile. And, for what it’s worth, while the men generally come off pretty well, the women are mostly contemptible . . . and not just at acting.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Looking for old-fashioned WWII Dutch Resistance? THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR/’62 offers well-made Hollywood; FLAME AND CITRON/’08 local product for Mads Mikkelsen fans; or even Verhoeven’s own SOLDIER OF ORANGE.

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