Best known for violent sci-fi (RoboCop) and extravagant erotica (Basic Instinct), Paul Verhoeven seems an unlikely director to tackle a serious World War II thriller. But in Black Book, the filmmaker draws on his memories of growing up in Nazi-occupied Holland to tell the story of an undercover Jewish singer (Carice van Houten) who falls in love with the German officer (The Lives of Others’ Sebastian Koch) she has been assigned by the resistance to seduce. Never mind the subtitles: Verhoeven movies need no translation, and even this dark tale of greed and betrayal is decorated with his signature dollops of risqué titillation. Verhoeven’s enthusiastic commentary illuminates the history that inspired the film, and defends the salaciousness he can’t resist. Of the scene in which the heroine bleaches her pubic hair: ”You could say, ‘Okay, do you have to show that?”’ he says. ”Well, I do…. I felt a necessity to show that plot point.” If only he’d applied such detailed attention to the byzantine script, which even Verhoeven admits breeds confusion. Personally, I’m still trying to comprehend body hair as a ”plot point.” B-
Genre: Mystery and Thriller, War; Starring: Sebastian Koch, Carice van Houten; Director: Paul Verhoeven; Author: Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven; Runtime (in minutes): 145; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Posted January 17 2015 — 9:14 AM EST
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