Thursday, February 07, 2008

Paul Verhoeven: Beyond Flesh and Blood, by Jean-Marc Bouineau

(pb; 1994 & 2000: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"Paul Verhoeven's name means controversy. His films have shocked the world of movie goers. Provocation is his moto. Sex has never been depicted so freely in movies before Turkish Delight, his second feature. RoboCop has set up new standards for the science-fiction genre. His somewhat overt cynicism has made him a fearless director eager to push the boundaries of movie-making.

"For the first time the director of The Fourth Man and Basic Instinct has been given the possibility to express his thoughts and feelings freely. He... speaks of his childhood, his intimate relationships with Rutger Hauer and Sharon Stone, violence, the media, [composer Igor] Stravinsky and much much more."


Interesting, short, glossy-paged read. The Dutch-born and -raised Verhoeven is blunt about his early films -- some of them not, by his own admission, worth revisiting (e.g., Business is Business), others transitional (e.g., Turkish Delight, Soldier of Orange and Flesh+Blood, with actor Rutger Hauer, whom Verhoeven calls "my spokesman. He passed on my feelings, my philosophy.")

In talking about some of his films made in America -- the Alfred Hitchcock/Vertigo-influenced Basic Instinct; Total Recall and RoboCop (influenced by director Fritz Lang's Metropolis); and his other skewerings of American life, Showgirls and Starship Troopers -- Verhoeven is equally blunt, and more philosophical. (It makes sense, as he's talking about a subject -- a country -- that's largely removed from his formative years.)

Verhoeven also talks about his working relationship with actors Sharon Stone (with whom he has a "love-hate relationship"), Arnold Schwarzenegger ("He is very supportive of the director... He has no ego") and screenwriter Joe Estzerhas, who scripted Basic Instinct and Showgirls.

This is a good read, not only for film-geeks or film school students, but for artists, as well. Verhoeven doesn't talk much about technology or equipment, but his approach towards showing sex (which often signals manipulation), violence and its often-attendant politics may be one worth considering as an influence.

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