Thursday, May 31, 2007

Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)

As far as resistance dramas go, it's no ARMY OF SHADOWS, but I don't expect the same things from Melville that I do from Verhoeven. This is PV's most classically-styled film in decades- perhaps ever- and for most of its length it works largely as hard-edged melodrama, a rousing wartime-espionage thriller in old Hollywood style (not for nothing is the heroine compared to Garbo as Mata Hari at one point) with plenty of Verhoeven-esque gore and nudity. But it gets really interesting once the Nazis have given up the ship- Verhoeven is too close to the reality of the story to let his countrymen off the hook, turning the nationalistic fervor that spills into the streets once the Allies arrive into a moral morass that consumes all questionable parties. The decision to make the protagonist female really pays off here, as the crowd's treatment of accused collaborators is doubly spiteful for women, who get branded as whores as well as traitors. Verhoeven is best at this kind of tangled morality, which often gets manifested as satire in his previous films, but here becomes the story's dramatic center. Also, there's the little matter of the awesome Carice Van Houten. Rating: 8 out of 10.

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