The only stroke Paul Verhoeven misses applying the perfect finishing touch to his latest film, "Black Book," is neglecting to do it in rotoscope. You know what that is Richard Linklater did it most recently with his movie of Philip K. Dick's novel, "A Scanner Darkly." Everything is shot live-action, then animators and computer experts take over and transform it into a groovy comic book movie. That's what Verhoeven's movie, "Black Book" is: a freakin' comic book; and it comes in four languages: Dutch, German, English and Hebrew, so get ready to read really fast.
A quasi-historical World War II (1944) dash about Holland depicting Nazis killing fugitive Jews with blowback from the Dutch Resistance seems to me an unlikely backdrop for a script which, by the way, has all the subtlety of a Batman movie made in the good old USA! This is Dutchman Verhoeven's first film to be shot in The Netherlands in a score of years.
Carice van Houten is in the lead as Rachel Stein, a Jewish damsel in deep and dire straits. As an on the lam singer, she escapes more Nazi traps than the beloved (mbeep-mbeep) Road Runner. Some of the "fun" things Rachel gets to do are witness the slaughter of her family by Nazi machine gunfire; fall in love and into bed with the führer of the SD in The Hague, Ludwig Müntze, played by Sebastian Koch ("The Lives of Others"); and, if you'll notice in the first sentence of this paragraph, I use the word, "deep." That refers to the scene in which Rachel is purposely inundated with human feces spilled from a large vat, suspended. Yes, for sure, even in a Paul Verhoeven film, shit happens, but this time, it's all over the heroine.
"Black Book," a mere 2 hours and 25 minutes, also has full frontal nudity (male and female). Ms. van Houten is shown bleaching ALL of her body hair to dupe her German lover (Müntze) that she's Aryan not Semitic. And in the film's most disgusting moment, one witnesses the über bad guy of the piece, a German SD officer (named Franken; sorry, Al), viciously played by Waldemar Kobus; he strolls, naked, about a restroom in the company of Rachel and another woman. As these frames flash by, you may wish to feign a lash in your eye.
The Holocaust, in brutal comic book form, somehow misses the mark in a big way for me. I'm thinking about such a movie that might be made in 2067 in which the plight of war victims is used as the background for a cruel and cartoon-like scenario based on one or two historical facts to issue from the Iraqi War and Occupation of the early 21st century.
If you want to see a first-rate movie about Nazis and all the trouble they caused in WWII, get out your Spielberg and take another look at "Schindler's List" or, even a more recent, award-winning film about tyranny committed by human beings on other human beings. That would be 2007's Oscar winner in only one foreign language (German), "The Lives of Others."
Starts 5/11 at the AMC Southroads 20.
Watch for showtimes at Yahoo Movies-Tulsa.
Gary Chew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.