Sunday, 16 January 2011

Paul Verhoeven Film Restrospective - Wat Zien Ik (Business Is Business)

Starship Troopers was on TV the other night, which I hadn't seen in years, but as I was too tired to watch it I thought I'd hunt down my DVD. While searching, I realised that although I had many other films by the director, Paul Verhoeven, on DVD, I hadn't seen any of them in years, or not at all in the case of his early stuff. As a result, I've decided to watch them all, in chronological order, starting with his early low budget dutch movies, through his big budget Hollywood blockbusters such as Robocop and Total Recall, past the disastrous erotic drama that is Showgirls to his return to Holland for Black Book. Wish me luck.

Paul Verhoeven is a dutch director who is not known for being subtle. Rather than suggest something, he likes to go full on and show it. Sometimes this works for the better (the violence in Robocop, the infamous flash scene in Basic Instinct) sometimes it doesn't (all of Showgirls).

Seeing as his first film, Wat Zien Ik (aka Business Is Business or Diary Of A Hooker) from 1971 is a dutch comedy about prostitution in Amsterdam's famous Red Light District, I am not expecting subtlety to be on the menu. Not sure what I am expecting, to be honest, but I doubt I will like this one anywhere near as much as I love some of his latter films. I am surprised that at the time of my DVD's release in 2002, it “remained the fourth most popular Dutch film of all time”, as the notes inform me.

Having now seen the film, I think it was better than I expected, but not a film I'm in any rush to see again. Although it was a comedy, it was played a lot more straight than I imagined it would be. From the trailer that came on the DVD, it looked like it was going to be quite silly, but it wasn't, which was a good thing. It was more of a light hearted drama than an out and out comedy, and it was quite sweet in places. Unfortunately it was also quite episodic so it never felt like it was telling a story so much as showing a number of incidents that occur in the main character's career.

Despite the amount of gratuitous nudity in his later films, there was a surprising lack of it in this. Although the film was about a prostitute in Amsterdam's red light district, all of the scenes with her clients were less about them just having sex, and more about the various role plays that her clients make her do. One was a naughty schoolboy, one wanted her to pretend to be a surgeon and one wanted her and her friend to cover themselvein feathers and pretend to be chickens.

The cinematographer on this film was Jan De Bont, who did all of Paul Verhoeven's early films and later went on to direct Speed and Twister.

IMDB gives this film 5.9, which is about right. It's not a bad film and hasn't dated as badly as a lot of the films from the 70's do, but I'd only recommend it to people if they are Paul Verhoeven fans and are interested in his early work. Anyone else, skip it.

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