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De gulle minnaar (1990)
A fascinating experience in all the wrong ways
De Gulle Minnaar is exactly the kind of movie which made a lot of Dutch people at the time say that they didn't like Dutch movies. This is a crude, unfunny picture. And if the story wasn't so ineptly told, this mess would have been also really offensive. The makers (or should I say maker, as I believe that much of the blame is squarely on the shoulders of producer Rob Houwer) tried to put a feminist message into this picture, as the movies are based on two novels of writer Marjan Berk. But their so-called humorist approach to the material turns out very sexist.
The story of De Gulle Minnaar is centered round Peter Heg (played by Peter Faber), who lives in an affluent neighborhood in Amsterdam with his son Tommie. Every morning he brings his son to school and gets hit on by every mother and, because he's a very generous man (no really, that's his excuse!), he sleeps with all of them, including the wife of his best friend (a matter that is laughably resolved along the lines of "Oh, you f*cked my wife... . Okay! Let's laugh about it! Haha!"). But anyway, the supposedly beautiful Mascha Silman (Mariska van Kolck) drops in his life, for reasons that are much to convoluted to explain. Mascha has a cooking radio show, although she can't cook to save her life (another example of this films very sophisticated humor). They fall in love, and Peter secretly stops all his love affairs. But because, again, he's so generous, he screws a couple of his mistresses for the last time. Soon, again in ways much to convoluted to explain, Mascha finds out about Peter's affairs and she leaves him. Of course, Peter misses her and tries to win her back, which...he does! But this doesn't mean the movie has ended. Oh no! there's an even more unbearable act that follows. Mascha has agreed to appear on a live cooking show on television along with two other famous female cooks. Because Mascha can't cook (the running gag again!), Peter decides to help her out. How? Well, he knocks one of the other female cooks out, disguises himself in drag and appears on the show as the famous colleague of Mascha. It all ends with Peter throwing the food ingredients at the TV people, after which Mascha, Peter and his son Tommie run out of the studio laughing about it all.
This movie was supposedly directed by the female Mady Saks. But after the movie came out, she explicitly and repeatedly said that she did the movie as a director-for-hire and that she didn't have any control on the finished product. The movie credits seem to underline her reasons as a credit shows that producer Rob Houwer supervised the editing. This producer has one claim to greatness: he produced five Dutch movies of director Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Basic Instinct), including the two masterpieces Turks Fruit (aka Turkish Delight) and Soldaat van Oranje (aka Soldier of Orange). After their collaboration, and Verhoeven's departing to Hollywood, Houwer somehow believed that he was the ultimate creative force behind the movies he did with Verhoeven. And with every movie, his name has constantly overshadowed the director. But these movies have been very mediocre at best (Van Geluk Gesproken, De Kleine Blonde Dood) or downright awful. De Gulle Minnaar belongs to the last section.
The terrible screenplay is on a par with the acting. The supporting cast is terrible, especially Syliva Millecam as Peter's ex-mistress and his nemesis. After the movie she achieved great fame and acclaim for her comedic work on television shows. Her career was cut short because of her tragic death in 2001 of breast cancer. I admired her in a lot of things, but unfortunately not here. Lead actor Peter Faber isn't badly cast and tries his best, but he consistently stumbles. The last thing is also the case with lead actress Mariska van Kolck. At the time, she actually was a well-known TV-presenter in the Netherlands with limited acting experience. Her non-existent performance in De Gulle Minnaar almost killed her career. Hell, she herself has even stated that she hated the movie and her performance. In a recent interview she said that she rushed out of the theater after the premiere and skipped the after party, because she was so embarrassed.
The movie also stinks on the technical department. The dubbing is truly awful. The cinematography is ugly and not indicative of DP Frans Bromet's other work. The same is also true for the musical score by Henny Vrienten.
The only reason that made me watch this movie until the end was that it fascinated me in a perverse way. I kept on looking, and thought to myself that this wretched movie couldn't get any worse. But, of course, it did. The experience was comparable to watching the aftermath of a spectacular disaster.
This Dutch film was a big commercial and critical hit when it appeared on Dutch screens in 1984. Which is really odd, considering that it's probably impossible to get a sort of film like this made these days anywhere. This movie is clearly influenced by the struggles that parents and children endure with each other. Everyone who is going through or has gone through puberty or is a parent of a child going through puberty might recognize the basis of the story. But the brilliance of Van Hemert is that he has taken this outline based on reality and has blown it out of proportion, which makes the movie a truly entertaining and demented experience.
The family Gisberts live in a very affluent villa. Father John Gisberts works in a nearby army base, where he does not do any much except for flying around in a helicopter, thereby checking out his family the whole time. His family is a real wild bunch. There's the mother Danny, who has fooled around with her tennis teacher Dennis, who is actually in love with the daughter of the family, Madelon. She harbors the same feelings for Dennis, although Danny does everything to stop them. The eldest son Thijs, in the meanwhile, is going through a heavy puberty and likes to cross on his motor cycle through the family garden, thereby destroying it. And then there are the two youngest sons Jan-Julius and Valentijn, who are clearly following the examples of their elder siblings and are up to no good. The children are wholly neglected by their parents, and if they are not neglected then they are condescended to or shouted at. John and Danny are clearly in an unhappy marriage and were not ever meant to have children. The only thing they seem to care about is their social status, with John clearly up for a promotion at his army base. The children are fed up with their parents' neglect and in the beginning are trying to get their attention at whatever means necessary, even if that means converting the alarm clock next to their parents'bed into... a ticking bomb! Of course, this doesn't work. And soon the fights descend into an all-out war between the two generations of the Gisberts family with a highlight being the children gassing their parents to a long sleep, evicting their parents out of the house and the parents trying to regain their house with the help of John's friends of the army base in one of the best action scenes ever done in Dutch cinema.
Schatjes starts blackly comic and veers into action-thriller territory and finally ends up with a horror sequence, homaging Kubrick's The Shining. It also has a bizarre musical interlude, in which tennis teacher Dennis tries get back with Madelon by singing a song; a scene that clearly tries to send up genre conventions, but completely fails. Reasons for inclusion of this scene might be director Ruud van Hemert and his former experience with the then-experimental Dutch television network VPRO. But the rest of the movie is assuredly directed and written by Van Hemert. The actors are also quite up to the task. As the parents Peter Faber (John) and Geert de Jong (Danny) descend comically and believably (albeit in a grotesque kind of way) from egotistical nitwits to maniacal bastards. The children start out believably as irritating little sh*ts, but their characters turn out to be easy to root for and are most of the time, bizarrely enough, affecting. Clearly Van Hemert was wanting the public to root for the children, which makes the movie quite controversial as usually the parents' position is something that can't be questioned in a patriarchal world, like the one we live in. but Van Hemert had the guts to stick the finger to conservative thinking, which makes Schatjes! a guilty pleasure.
A beautiful, but fake looking failure
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow does not seem to be a love-it-or-hate-it movie, but more of a love-it-or-don't-really-cared-much-for-it-but-it-LOOKED-impressive kind of movie. I seem to belong strictly in the latter camp. The artwork does indeed look pretty stunning. The art deco style in the scenes that are set in the city look absolutely beautiful. But despite all the details and the love that the director Conran clearly put in the visuals, I could not help but thinking that it all still looked fake. This is the main factor that put me off the movie. But there were other factors that come to mind like the acting. By setting the movie in the late 30s of the 20th century and in capturing the feeling of the serials that were made during that time, the actors try to give it their all in terms of acting in the style that was required for movies in that time. But it seems as if Jude Law and especially Gwyneth Paltrow can't shed their usual acting styles and persona's, which clash within the context of this movie. Only Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi seems to get away with it, but only just.
Sky Captain does have some mildly entertaining episodes that are enough to keep you from pushing the eject button or leaving the theater, but overall it's still a failure, that for all it's experimentation won't be much more of a footnote in the future.
Unintentionally hilarious in places, but Curtis is profoundly likable
Made during the heyday of the aerobics craze, Perfect seemed like a great idea for the studio Columbia to cash in on a trend and more... . Like Travolta's breakthrough picture Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy, Travolta's other collaboration with director James Bridges, it was based on a series of news articles focused on a trend and lifestyle. But in 1983 Flashdance, maybe the quintessential high concept picture, came out, a movie, with no plot to speak of, which was set to an up-tempo chic pop soundtrack and contained a lot of images with a dancing Jennifer Beals double, that were easily marketable to a big audience. And they went to see it in big numbers. Perfect, unfortunately for the studio, came out in theaters when the aerobics craze had already reached it's peak.
Perfect contains the same elements that made Flashdance a big commercial success: thin plotting and characterization, an up-tempo pop soundtrack and lots of images of people dancing to the music in sequences that don't seem to further the plot or deepen characterization. But Flashdance didn't pretend to be much more than what it is: namely a cheap piece of fluff. Perfect, on the other hand, strives for something a little more worthwhile, but fails on those accounts. Bridges put in some ethical comments on the profession of journalism. And he also tried to put in a potentially interesting thriller-storyline around the McKenzie character. But these are soon discarded for the romantic storyline between Curtis and Travolta, that starts out in a playful way but soon turns tiresome due to bad plotting and characterization. That's not to say that Curtis and Travolta are bad in this. Curtis, who seems incapable to give an unlikeable performance, especially does her best and nearly lifts the movie with her enthusiasm.
What's left of Perfect are a couple of hilariously great aerobics scenes, in which Curtis gives her all, a hilariously great male stripper scene and some really bad hair moments. So, bad movie aficionado's, like me, and Curtis fans, like me, will find something to like in this. Therefore my rating is 6 out of 10.
Color of Night (1994)
Some campy scenes and acting save Color of Night from being too awful
Recently I watched this thriller by Richard Rush again after seeing it 10 years ago. I hated it then. The pacing was turgid, the acting laughable and you could see some of the plot twists from a mile off. No, this was a terrible movie.
Wll, a couple of months I bought the DVD Richard Rush's flick The Stunt Man at a sale. I really dug that one and when I found out that Rush also had done Color of Night, and that the Bruce Willis vehicle was his only movie that he had made after The Stunt Man, I became intrigued...
So, I decide to rent it and after seeing it again: It still sucks, but it's not that terrible. The pacing still seems a mile off and some of the acting is truly terrible (Scott Bakula and the one who played the cop are especially frighteningly awful), but some of the acting was not as terrible as I had thought. Jane March and Lesly Anne Warren seem to camp it up in a fabulous way and their scene together is fantastic and hilarious. Also, Richard Rush seems to have incorporated themes and styles from the Stunt Man into this. The same kind of lighting and music which were wonderful in The Stunt Man can also be seen and heard here. But where as the circus music heard in Th Stunt Man was appropriate during the stunt scenes, in Color of Night they are played during the therapy session scenes. It just does not work as the cast are...uh..colorful enough. Putting that music on the soundtrack makes it stupid instead of funny; it misses a punchline.
The script is terrible with far too many loose ends. The denouement is filled with very talky ex-positional dialogue. It seems to shot in a re-shoot, as the characters fall over themselves to kill or save each other, while trying to fill the plot holes. Also, the characters don't seem to mourn over the people that die in the course of this movie; are they really that shallow or was that footage thrown out by the director?
Bruce Willis also is not good. He seems too jokey and relaxed in the serious scenes. It's only, surprisingly, during the romantic scenes with Jane March that he is on a roll. I never took him for a charmer, but he seems to have plenty of charm during those scenes.
Still, Color of Night has a campy attitude in some places and is beautifully lit. Because of that: 5 out of 10
Powerful movie by an up-and-coming great director.
Although I haven't seen Far From Heaven, I still can safely say on the evidence of this film that Todd Haynes is a great director.
Julianne Moore plays a vacuous suburban housewife who gets sick by an unspecified disease. And actually that's all you need to know plot-wise. Moore is great because she plays an annoying character, but somehow you don't get turned of by her. Moore holds a firm grip on your attention. Haynes has shot this movie with a cool, subtle eye and he comments on many things in our society e.g. consumerism, suburbia, new age, therapy groups, etc. But he holds it together by keeping you at a distance. Hereby his critique on society isn't scatter-shot. See it! Whatever you think of it, it's still an unusual work containing a tour de force performance by one of the best actresses around.