Saturday, July 14, 2007

Black Book (2006)

****½
Netherlands/Belgium/UK/Germany

It's such a release to see a great filmmaker bail Hollywood and breathe again. To be fair though, Paul Verhoeven does retain all the positive aspects of the Old Hollywood instincts for action, pacing and tension buildup in presenting this cheeky thriller about a Jewish woman who joins the Dutch Resistance and starts sleeping with a Nazi towards the end of WWII. This may be why several people who should know better dismissed the film as an enjoyable but empty genre feature. But how many empty genre features present a noble Nazi, undermine the heroics of the Resistance, equate a choral hymn with a barrel of shit and question the automatic vilification and easy branding of collaborators. With terrific, subversive intelligence Verhoeven mixes genre with things that genre traditionally avoids or confuses, and even as he threatens to tie history into an insufferably neat end, he chooses to finish on an ambiguous, unsettling image that provokes some urgent thought.
Also keeping in line with the movie's credo of deeper things bubbling beneath the gloss, the star, Carice Van Houten, reveals beneath her soft, porcelain, 1940s-screen-siren features, a guile, tenacity and ferocity to be reckoned with.

dir: Paul Verhoeven
wr: Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven
m: Anne Dudley
cast: Carice Van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel, Dolf de Vries, Peter Blok, Michiel Huisman, Ronald Armbrust

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