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Sien is raised by her grandparents after her mother, a singer/prostitute is strangled by her father. She becomes enamored by song and dance man Jan Meier and the two form a successful double act called 'Het Duo Durand'. When her sea fairing father returns after a long absence Sien wants nothing to do with him. But after several years of marriage and one child, Jan becomes more interested in one of the dancing girls and Sien has to reevaluate her life. Written by
Old show tunes leading up to Willeke's showstopper
After her successful starring role in the Television drama "De Kleine Waarheid", vocalist Willeke Alberti got a motion picture vehicle to star in based on the popular stage play Rooie Sien. A smart choice, seeing as the part requires a lot of singing. The original star, Beppie Nooij Jr, also appeared in the film as Sien's mother. Taking place between the first and second world wars, the film features a lot of period songs and one haunting number that was written especially for the big screen version, which became a big hit and is now considered somewhat of a cliché.
The story is relatively simple: Redhaired Sien is raised by her grandparents after her seafaring father strangles her mother (also called Sien) because she won't give up the life of a prostitute. In 1932 Sien meets a song and dance man called Jan Meier (Jules Hamel) and becomes entranced by his smooth talking and showbiz glitter. They soon become a double act as 'Het Duo Durand', with Sien proving herself the main attraction on stage. When her estranged father (Kees Brusse) shows up after 11 years she wants nothing to do with him. Sien refuses to listen to him when he says he doesn't want her to end up like her mother (who also started off singing in bars.) By 1932, Jan and Sien are performing in a larger establishment in The Hague (but still working for the same pub owners). They are raising a daughter (also called Sien, what else) but Jan is more interested in new dancing girl Angelique (Geert de Jong) than his family. On New Years Eve, Sien decides to stop performing and leave Jan and it is at this point that she sings the aforementioned showstopper 'Telkens Weer'. Written by Friso Wiegersma with music by Ruud Bos, the song is also incorporated into the soundtrack, making the build up to the performance even more satisfying.
"Telkens Weer" is the kind of love song that soon got a life of it's own away from the movie and was soon translated and covered in different languages. While it works very well as the default climax of the film, it doesn't really fit in with all the more simpleminded (where lyrics and subjects are concerned) period songs that had been heard previously. It is a lot like all those Hollywood musicals that add one new song to an existing musical in order for it to get an Academy Award Nomination. In fact, had this been an English language film, it would certainly have become a world famous standard.
Nowadays Willeke has become sort of a cult-figure for Dutch transvestites and her music is a fixture at the Gay Pride festival. Having concentrated the rest of her career mainly on music (including the occasional musical), Willeke's acting career has almost been completely forgotten, and so has the fact that 'Telkens Weer' originated in the film version of "Rooie Sien". However, it must be said that she carried the film well, despite having to wear an unappealing red wig for most of the running time (it straightens out a bit near the end). However, the film failed to grant Willeke the opportunity to improve on her acting success on Television, because "Rooie Sien" has too many stage bound musical numbers and not enough story. Despite superior production values and costume designs, the film remains a filmed play - with the added bonus of "Telkens Weer".
8 out of 10
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