Paul Verhoeven

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DarkImbecile
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Paul Verhoeven

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Jul 28, 2005 3:34 pm

Paul Verhoeven (1938 - )

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"People love seeing violence and horrible things. The human being is bad and can't stand more than five minutes of happiness. Put him in a theater and ask him to look at two hours of happiness, and he'd walk out or fall asleep."

Filmography

Features (* = Screenwriter/Co-Writer)
Wat zien ik [Business is Business] (1971)
Turks fruit [Turkish Delight] (1973)
Keetje Tippel [Katie Tippel] (1975)
Soldaat van Oranje [Soldier of Orange]* (1977)
Spetters (1980)
De vierde man [The Fourth Man] (1983)
Flesh + Blood* (1985)
RoboCop (1987)
Total Recall (1990)
Basic Instinct (1992)
Showgirls (1995)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Hollow Man (2000)
Zwartboek [Black Book]* (2006)
Tricked* (2012)
Elle (2016)
Blessed Virgin (2018)

Web Resources
Partial Bibliography/Interviews

Forum Discussion
23 Robocop
Black Book/Zwartboek (Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)

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ben d banana
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#2 Post by ben d banana » Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:46 pm

flyonthewall2983 wrote:
Can you explain why you like MINORITY REPORT but loathe ROBOCOP?
I liked Minority Report because I basically see it as a mix between a good mystery and the kind of emotional edge Spielberg has given the sci-fi genre. And as far as endings go, I was kinda disappointed with it too. I think a better ending would have had Anderton still someone searching for truth, rather than living happily ever after.

As far as Robocop, I think the easy question to the answer was that it scared me as a kid, and now I just hate it because of that. But I've seen it a few times when they ran it on some of the premium channels a few years ago, and I found that there were a few scenes that actually made me like it a tiny bit more. Specifically when our hero comes back to his house and sees the visions of his past. And some of the performances, especially Miguel Ferrer's are quite entertaining within themselves. But on the other hand, the violence was something of a turn-off. And I know that it was meant as something of a satire of American films, but it didn't come off as such. It just came off as ultra-violent, and sometimes without any purpose. And I like violent films, just as long as the violence is just presented as is, rather than enhanced or unrealistic.
Sounds like a good reason to hate broccoli.

Seems like you're at least coming to grips with Robocop. It's like when I've had to argue that Starship Troopers is a satire (D-U-H-!) with friends who just thought it was a stupid movie.

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#3 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Jul 28, 2005 10:00 pm

What about Showgirls?

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ben d banana
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#4 Post by ben d banana » Thu Jul 28, 2005 10:13 pm

One of my top ten movies of all-time.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#5 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Fri Jul 29, 2005 9:15 am

ben d banana wrote:Sounds like a good reason to hate broccoli.

Seems like you're at least coming to grips with Robocop. It's like when I've had to argue that Starship Troopers is a satire (D-U-H-!) with friends who just thought it was a stupid movie.
I agree. One of the best quotes I ever heard re: Verhoeven is that he makes the kinds of films that Americans deserve... i.e. big, nasty, ugly, ultraviolent movies that skewer the worst aspects of American culture with Robocop and Starship Troopers being his best efforts, IMO. Altho, Showgirls is a lot of fun for the sheer fact that Verhoeven has the balls to go all out with this movie and let the bad acting and bad dialogue rip to the point where, as Enid in Ghost World would say, is "so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again."

I had high hopes for Hollow Man but it felt like Verhoeven was restrained by the studio who didn't let him cut loose like he should. There are scenes that feel like they were cut just as they were about to get really interesting.

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#6 Post by Polybius » Sat Jul 30, 2005 1:39 am

ben d banana wrote:It's like when I've had to argue that Starship Troopers is a satire (D-U-H-!) with friends who just thought it was a stupid movie.
Personally, I found this film problematic, even as I recognize that you're essentially correct.

Unlike the droll Robocop, which was clearly a satire, I thought Starship Troopers was his attempt to have a film that was plausibly a sendup and also plausibly just a straight action film, with truly sickening ideas behind it (par for the Heinlein course).

To, in Gardner Dozois' words, "run with the hounds and also run with the fox." As usual, when people try that, especially ham fisted oafs like Paul, they end up pleasing no one and pissing them all off, instead.

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ben d banana
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#7 Post by ben d banana » Sat Jul 30, 2005 5:16 am

The studio surely presented Starship Troopers as a straight action film, just as it did Robocop, and I imagine it could be viewed as such if you lack even the faintest notion of a clue, but do you believe Verhoeven could have made a film of such a magnitude, or been able to get people into the seats, if he presented a straight up, preach to the choir, anti-fascist polemic? And would that film be any good?

Part of the problem w/ the response to Verhoeven could well be cultural. For instance, on the commentary for said film it is pointed out that he thought of Denise Richards' character as a positive, strong-willed female, whereas the audience response was basically that evil bitch must die. In the case of the co-ed showers it appears he thought of it as these are just people and who cares if they're naked, while it was looked upon as gratuitous nudity and sexism in the particularly puritanical USA. Beyond that, I'm unable to conceive of the film's blatant satirical shots at imperialism, fascist imagery, patriotism, war mongering, mob mentality, etc as anything but. And what kind of misogynist makes a film where the leader of the to be colonized land, whose forces were only fighting to stave off futuristic conquistadors, is a giant brain as vagina?

As for his ham-fistedness, there is no way in my mind that Showgirls is more so than Basic Instinct, yet the public response again puts me in the minority.

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ben d banana
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#8 Post by ben d banana » Sat Jul 30, 2005 5:32 am

I haven't bothered to read anything (much) on Verhoeven, not even the gf's lengthy university piece on Starship Troopers, which I must add was greeted excitedly and graded highly by her prof who also taught a terrific Hitchcock course, but I find his commentary tracks fascinating and fun. He is willing to point out where he feels he's failed, extremely enthusiastic about where he feels he's succeeded, and uses his intelligence to mock his detractors, as in the track for The 4th Man where he points out he used a lot of symbolism just for the critics, who had written him off, to eat up, which of course they did. As far as filmmaker commentaries go I put his up there w/ Herzog and Soderbergh, the latter of whom I know you dislike goofy but I've been agreeing w/ you too much lately anyway.

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#9 Post by Polybius » Sat Jul 30, 2005 11:00 pm

ben d banana wrote:The studio surely presented Starship Troopers as a straight action film, just as it did Robocop, and I imagine it could be viewed as such if you lack even the faintest notion of a clue, but do you believe Verhoeven could have made a film of such a magnitude, or been able to get people into the seats, if he presented a straight up, preach to the choir, anti-fascist polemic?
Outside of what he did, no. It's literally impossible to make anything anti-fascist using Starship Troopers as a template, outside of a straight faced Swiftian take. I know most Heinlein fans loathe it (which lends your view credence.)

I'm just simply not convinced that he concieved of it solely as that. It seems as if he might have wanted to act essentially as a double agent, doing both things. Maybe I'm just overthinking things, trying to put more into his mind than is really there.

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#10 Post by ben d banana » Sun Jul 31, 2005 1:24 am

Or underestimating him.

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#11 Post by david hare » Sun Jul 31, 2005 4:32 am

The most amusing Verhoeven commentary track is on Spetters (MGMR1) in which he does a spirited defence of bisexuality and the honest presentation of the male organ, erect and otherwise. (I'll raise a toast to that!) But in all honesty I find him a very minor figure (More for guilty pleasures like Basic Instinct as camp, than for anything serious.) The Fourth Man is more of the same but without the erections. And Turkish Delight (as I remember it) is a misogynistic mess. He reminds me of the neurotic gay Dutch landlord who rented me my first apartment ever as a student and who was frankly a maniac. His idea of wackiness was to unleash a box full of cockroaches under my door in the middle of the night.

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#12 Post by ben d banana » Sun Jul 31, 2005 1:16 pm

But he only did it to get the performance out of you that he wanted.

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#13 Post by Jaime_Weinman » Sun Jul 31, 2005 6:18 pm

Verhoeven reminds me of Douglas Sirk in the sense that they're both European emigres who make trashy Hollywood movies while very deliberately inserting social criticism into those same movies for those who want to find it, and then talking about the social-criticism aspects of their movies when asked about it. They get to have their cake and eat it too -- one level for the ignorant masses and another level for the cognoscenti.

That's a bit of a harsh way to put it, but sometimes I am a bit put off by the way Verhoeven seems to be sneering at his audience, afraid to challenge them directly and instead aiming the "serious" content at members of the audience who want to feel superior to the rest of the audience -- making his movies an undemanding good time on both levels (because on either level he's just telling audiences what they want to hear). Robocop actually does seem to try to let the whole audience in on the fact that it's a satire, so I except that from my criticism.

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#14 Post by Polybius » Sun Jul 31, 2005 8:56 pm

Okay, now that I can buy. But it's still a symptom of him being either gutless, lazy or maybe just disturbed. It's not 1956 anymore. If you don't like something, address it directly. Don't embrace it just to get close enough to stomp it because you're just as likely to get nailed yourself, whether or not you realize it.

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#15 Post by david hare » Sun Jul 31, 2005 9:09 pm

That's a VERY long bow from Verhoeven to Sirk. While I think it's probably worthwhile talking about the director and genre movies (and indeed Verhoeven's extension of the levels of violence and sexual frankness, say) I don't agree with the "trashy" moniker to describe the Sirkian adoption of melodrama. And I would be very wary of using it all in any discussion of genres. ALso I don't think Verhoeven really intends his movies to operate at a serious/frivolous dual level. If he does he subverts any such intention at every turn with plain old indulgence. There is a very unpleasant, even sadistic worm burnng away there, although to listen to his commentaries you couldn't imagine a nicer guy.
Formally I think Verhoeven is a totally competent technician but thematically he seems only interested in elements of his plots and characters (like their misogyny, or their repressed violence or fascism) and he doesn't - to me anyway - display any larger "vision". But as a director of "product" he is miles ahead of the Michael Bays, Tony Scotts etc.

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#16 Post by ben d banana » Sun Jul 31, 2005 9:53 pm

I simply cannot see how Starship Troopers, in particular, is a subtle commentary. I'm also unable to comprehend how if Verhoeven's films are ambiguous that makes him lazy or gutless. Does this sort of logic work for other filmmakers from say the 60's on who were no longer operating under conservative circumstances? Is a film with a blatant agenda spelled out in giant capital letters necessarily better than one without? Am I supposed to believe that the guy who grew up with the Nazis invading his country and bombs falling on his street appropriated fascist imagery because he's in love with tyranny?

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#17 Post by cdnchris » Sun Jul 31, 2005 11:49 pm

The commentary isn't really that subtle in Starship Troopers. It's big and loud, and all that, but even then the whole film is done in the style of a propaganda film. I remember while I was watching it in the theater I felt it was trying to recruit for me something. It's so one-sided, ignores all the politics of the situation, and is made to get your blood going so you might want to join the army and kill some bugs, or at least cheer for the cause.

Of course when you stop and think about it, the bugs really did nothing. They were just defending themselves from the colonization of the humans, but the movie pretty much ignores that the whole way through, presents them as evil bastards who are the aggressors, and is filled with pretty people who can't act (except Michael Ironside, who is both ugly and just kickass), big explosions, makes you forget about how wrong the situation is to begin with, and has a lot of patriotic bullshit. Just like a propaganda film would have done, if the situation was actually real. It's a total recruitment film.

I mean the film works both ways (as an all-out action film and commentary) but for it to keep its propaganda style, wouldn't it have to come off as an action film anyways, considering the subject matter? I'm assuming Verhoeven saw Nazi propaganda films and that's the style he's going for (Hell, the whole film is filled with Nazi imagery, and I'm sure it's not just because of the Fascist reference, but also to conjure up, maybe, those films as well.) I've never actually seen a Nazi propaganda film in its entirety, only clips, so I could be totally off on that.

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#18 Post by lord_clyde » Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:30 am

Has anybody else seen a Soldier of Orange? It's a cool movie with a great Rutger Hauer performance. Apparently Spielberg saw it and invited Verhoeven to Hollywood.

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#19 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Aug 01, 2005 3:39 am

which somehow brings me back to my original statement that I thought some of Minority Report paid a sort-of homage to Robocop.

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#20 Post by Polybius » Mon Aug 01, 2005 3:51 am

ben d banana wrote:Am I supposed to believe that the guy who grew up with the Nazis invading his country and bombs falling on his street appropriated fascist imagery because he's in love with tyranny?
If you took me to be implying that, I'm sorry and you're mistaken.

The idea is simply this: some people believe he was trying to make a film that was, on it's surface, what cdnchris sees. Namely a straight action film with fascist ideas underpinning it (which would keep it faithful to it's source material, Heinlein's typically vile later period novel), for a general audience, while at the same time trying, through various shadings, to signal that it was all a bit of a put on and aimed above those people's heads at those who understand irony. Thus the possible parallel with Sirk, whose films ran on two tracks.

Some Heinlein fans got wind of this and denounced it, some others just hate it because they got minutae about the helmets or suits wrong. And the irony appreciating brigade just saw a big pile of shit.

I don't know if I agree with the original premise, but it's stuck in my mind since I first read it (before I ever saw the film itself) and I think it's worth at least very serious consideration.

If that was his aim, then he obviously failed miserably.

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#21 Post by ben d banana » Mon Aug 01, 2005 6:20 am

Well I guess one man's amorphousness is another man's balls out satirical camp, not to mention shit and gold.

This is the same director who made Robocop, employing some of the same methods to display parodic elements, which should help anyone decipher its message. Cdnchris also mentions the cast, which for me was another dead giveaway. All those ridiculously "pretty" people from Baywatch, etc and TV's Doogie Howser MD as the Mengele of the future delivering those hammy lines in over the top earnestness were positively screaming at me.

Obviously it was marketed as a stupid sci-fi explosions movie and yes, I'm sure gung ho retards could love it as such. That doesn't hinder my enjoyment on its other, and to my mind patently obvious, level. There are plenty of people who love The Simpsons because it mirrors their life and they relate to it, even if that thought terrifies its makers, although it shouldn't because those lard asses in the mall decked out in Simpsons gear are making someone money. The Sirk reference works perfectly well for me, but we needn't have a battle over who's superior.

I truly don't believe it's a question of if satire was his intent, but I would like to know how he obviously failed miserably. The point was not lost on me along with many people I know, and the film rescued him in the public and industry's eyes rather considerably from the Showgirls debacle. By the way, I recall Sofia Coppola listed said flop in her ten best list for that year with a comment along the lines of one day people will appreciate camp.

And yes, Soldier of Orange is "cool", along with being further evidence of Verhoeven's stance on the whole issue of fascist invasion of one's homeland.

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#22 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Aug 01, 2005 9:19 am

cdnchris wrote:The commentary isn't really that subtle in Starship Troopers. It's big and loud, and all that, but even then the whole film is done in the style of a propaganda film. I remember while I was watching it in the theater I felt it was trying to recruit for me something. It's so one-sided, ignores all the politics of the situation, and is made to get your blood going so you might want to join the army and kill some bugs, or at least cheer for the cause.
Really? I don't get that feeling at all. If anything, the film makes me not want to join any kind of armed forces. He certainly doesn't portray them in a flattering light. When our young heroes go to sign up the recruiting officer who signs them in is missing both his legs and the tone of this scene is certainly not rah-rah, let's go get 'em kind of vibe. If anything his movie takes a bunch of Beverly Hills 90210 wannabes and drops them into a CGI meat-grinder as if to say, look what joining the army does to you. Further evidence that I think supports this view is the dumb yokel who gets his head blasted open during basic training thanks to the main character screwing up. And then for his troubles he gets publically flogged! Again, hardly a ringing endorsement for signing up.

If anything all the rah-rah recruitment stuff in the movie is done totally tongue-in-cheek as a parody of all the WW2 newsreel propaganda (of which I believe Verhoeven refers to in the commentary) as if Verhoeven's saying look how silly this all is and what's the point? All these kids are just cannon fodder when it comes down to it.
Of course when you stop and think about it, the bugs really did nothing. They were just defending themselves from the colonization of the humans, but the movie pretty much ignores that the whole way through, presents them as evil bastards who are the aggressors,
Again, that's in keeping the film's satirical propaganda POV. We never see things from the alien POV because that isn't what the film is about. It's a savage skewering of American might-makes-right Imperialism. The aliens are merely a metaphor for any country the U.S. has gone in to "liberate."

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#23 Post by Andre Jurieu » Mon Aug 01, 2005 3:05 pm

ben d banana wrote: There are plenty of people who love The Simpsons because it mirrors their life and they relate to it, even if that thought terrifies its makers, although it shouldn't because those lard asses in the mall decked out in Simpsons gear are making someone money. The Sirk reference works perfectly well for me, but we needn't have a battle over who's superior.
Yeah, but the difference between the guys behind The Simpsons (and I'd throw Sirk in with them in this case) and Verhoeven is that while the writers/creators of The Simpsons always admit they are skewering American society, they also occasionally take a moment to illustrate how their characters are human, and despite all their flaws and faults, their simplicity deserves our sympathy (or even pity), especially when they illustrate how we all share the same basic qualities. Homer might be the embodiment of the American-Jackass, but he also has an innocence about him that makes him compelling rather than just merely a pawn within the writers' hands. As well, the writers/creators aren't above skewering their own efforts and personalities.

That doesn't appear to be the case with Verhoeven. I think it's obvious that he is attempting satire (it's just scary that people - including some of my friends - don't recognize it. You don't know how often I had to sit through one friend repeating that "Everybody fights. Nobody Quits" line from Ironside constantly) just because his style is so over-the-top. Unfortunately, he seems to only have contempt for his characters and the audience that doesn't "get it". I can understand his disapproval for the audience - even though they are the ones he's exploiting for box-office - but I just don't enjoy his disdain for his own characters. I don't think I'll ever question his "balls", but I guess I just get tired of watching a man constantly using the sledgehammer.

I also get the feeling that if I were to ever claim Verhoeven to be a unquestionable genius, I'd also have to make some sort of similar accommodation for Vince McMahon.

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#24 Post by ben d banana » Mon Aug 01, 2005 4:16 pm

I seriously doubt McMahon has as developed a sense of irony as Verhoeven, but if $$$ figures into the equation of genius then Vince's head is giant for a reason.

While there is some heart behind The Simpsons, it does come after a fair deal of mockery and abuse. Also, I'm not terribly worried about such displays of goodwill. When Friends came out and people applauded it as Seinfeld with a heart I was appalled. What part of the point didn't these people get? Or did they just need things watered down for their delicate sensibilities? I know I'm not the only one here (Andre) who appreciates Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's completely unfelt "I keed because I love" take on Don Rickles' apologies after lengthy (racially) abusive runs. I'll again point out that I believe that some of the misperception of Verhoeven's work, specifically the characterizations, is due to cultural differences, as mentioned re: Denise Richards' character in Starship Troopers.

I can understand Verhoeven's sledgehammer technique wearing thin on someone. However, as a fan of the likes Jim Steinman and Andrew W.K., I want my over the top to be completely OTT, just as I don't feel the need for explosions and shit in Ozu (for the most conspicuous reference on this forum and one for which I'm certain Andre will grant a no duh). Obviously I wouldn't want to live on an exclusive diet of one type of movie, music, food, etc and I'm happy as hell when the desire arises that Verhoeven is there to fill a need that can't be matched by the other rare few (Hollywood) actioners I enjoy such as Die Hard (which contains an Ozu reference to keep that theme running).

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#25 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Aug 01, 2005 4:47 pm

I also get the feeling that if I were to ever claim Verhoeven to be a unquestionable genius, I'd also have to make some sort of similar accommodation for Vince McMahon.
Ouch...and I'm even a fan of his product, but I know what that means. Trying not to get on another tangent again, he needs better writers and quick. Considering recent events, there's much more out there he can get than just sitcom writers.

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